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Dove Hunting Fields: Is it Legal?
by Steve McCadams

 The traditional September 1st dove season is almost upon us and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) is reminding hunters to check any dove field before they begin hunting to make sure it is not baited illegally.

 It is the responsibility of every hunter to be certain that he is not hunting over a baited field.  So how does a hunter know if it is legal to hunt a particular field?  The key to determining whether or not a field is legal is whether bona fide agricultural practices have been employed. If corn, milo, wheat, or some other grain crop has been planted and harvested in a normal manner, it is perfectly legal to hunt.  However, if cracked corn, wheat, or some other grain has been poured on the ground in big piles, that is not a bona fide agricultural practice and would be illegally baited.

 Every hunter should check the field before beginning a dove hunt. If a field has been freshly disked and has a large concentration of doves, check to see what type of grain is attracting the doves.  If there is cracked corn, soybeans, sunflower seeds, or other grain, and no evidence that those grains are simply typical remains from harvesting the crop that was grown there, it is best to leave.  If grain is present along with crop stubble that makes it apparent the crop was harvested from that field, it is legal.

 Wheat is sown at this time of year in Tennessee as a standard agricultural practice, so if a hunter checks a field which has been disked and sown with wheat, it may be legal.  But the wheat must be evenly distributed, not sown more than one time in the same area, and cannot exceed a normal planting rate.  If the wheat is in piles or deep strips, it is illegal.  If there is an excessive amount of wheat, even though it is evenly distributed, it is illegal.

 One thing a hunter should ask himself is, how well does he know the landowner?  Does he always comply with wildlife regulations? Remember, an area is considered baited even ten days after all the bait has been removed.  This regulation is to protect the doves, because they will continue to come back to a baited field for up to two weeks after the bait has been removed.  If a hunter has any doubt that a field may be illegally baited, the best thing to do is leave the area and contact the TWRA.  In west Tennessee, contact the Region I office in Jackson at 1-800-372-3928 or (901) 423-5725.

Steve McCadams
  is a professional hunting and fishing guide here in the Paris Landing area and host of The Outdoor Channel's television series  IN-PURSUIT. 




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