USFWS warns hunters about baited fields
By RICHARD HINTON
As the early Canada goose season nears its Friday opener, migratory game bird hunters need to make sure they aren't set up in a baited field.
That's the word in this drought year from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Many farmers' fields yielded stunted small grains that weren't harvested, especially in the southern part of North Dakota, Rich Grosz, the USFWS special agent in Bismarck, said Wednesday.
"If the farmer doesn't harvest and goes typically to discing, tilling or things of that nature, it makes a baited field because it was never harvested," he said.
Manipulating a field increases loose grain availability on the ground and creates an unfair advantage to the hunter, Grosz explained. Agricultural crops include wheat, corn, barley, oats, flax, beans, peas and similar crops. Manipulation practices can be rolling, burning, discing, flattening, mowing, brush-hogging or similar actions, he said.
Species covered by the baiting regulations are ducks, geese, cranes, swans and coots. Resident game birds, such as pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse or Hungarian partridges, are not affected by baiting, Grosz said.
Wheat and other small grain crops were especially affected by heat and drought in the southern portions of North Dakota and much of South Dakota, Grosz added.
"The primary focus is small grains, but it could be corn up in northern North Dakota that did not produce and was zeroed out," he said.
Hunters should inspect a field to see if it has been harvested or just knocked down, Grosz said.
"If hunters still are not sure, contact the landowner or whoever has control over that land and ask them, 'Did you harvest that crop?' Do some homework," he continued. "If hunters do that, a lot of these concerns or questions will be abated."
Grosz compares an agricultural cycle not impacted by perverse weather conditions to three links to a chain.
"First there's normal agriculture planting, then there is a normal agriculture harvest at the right time of year and with the right type of machinery to remove grain from the field. Then there's normal post-harvest manipulation," he said.
For many producers this year, the sequence was broken because the harvest didn't happen.
"That's causing the baiting situation," he said. "We're trying to get sportsmen and women to keep those three things in mind. You have to form a circle."
And these fields will be deemed baited next spring too.
Being the drought is from TX to the CA border, and this is a Federal law, beware in the other states too.
And remember--it is not just the feed field that is off limits, but their travelling to and from their roost to the feed field are off limits too per the Federal laws on baited fields. So running traffic if they are headed to the baited field is not legal either.