Baited Fields and Dove Season: Don’t Run Afoul of the Law

The 2016 Georgia Dove season is fast approaching. Opening day for the first part of the season is on September 3rd, 2016. Perhaps one of the most satisfying hunting experiences for every sportsman/ sportswoman, dove season is the first hunting season to begin the fall hunting seasons. It comes before any other season in the fall and offers one of the most challenging experiences for any hunter. It also provides the opportunity to run afoul of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources for hunting over a baited field.O.C.G.A. § 27-3-9 (b)(1) provides in part “it shall be unlawful for any person to hunt any game bird or game animal upon, over, around, or near any place where any corn, wheat, or other grains, salts, apples, or other feed or bait has been placed, exposed, deposited, distributed, or scattered so as to constitute a lure, attraction, or enticement to such birds or animals.”Placing any of the above noted materials on a field will be considered baiting as it is an attempt to attract more birds to one field over another non-baited field.

Some of the key language in the statute to take note of is “upon, over, around, or near any place.” Our law firm challenged this statutory language over 30 years ago as unconstitutional for being vague and ambiguous. Notwithstanding constitutional challenges, the court found it was not vague and ambiguous. The language itself sets up a scenario where you have two adjacent fields, one baited and one not baited. Due to the two fields being adjacent to each other, the baited field will prohibit the adjacent field from being hunted as the court would find such a scenario satisfies the statutory language of hunting “upon, over, around, or near any place.” Many hunters do this to be sure, even though they may know the consequences. There are several ways a hunter can be reprimanded for such action but this synopsis will focus on one in particular.

The most common punishment for a baited field, that is if no one is hunting over it, will usually result in the Georgia DNR rangers shutting down the field for a period of time. Georgia prohibits a field from being hunted for a period of ten days after the complete removal of such feed or bait. To clarify, if a field is found to have been baited, the bait must be removed and will not be open to hunters for a period of ten days after the bait is removed. The most common form of baiting takes the form of spreading loose corn around a field. Field corn is usually a favorite among those who use this method. The punishment for a person found to be hunting over a baited field is a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature. The Georgia DNR ranger when finding a baited field will require the land owner to remove the bait from the baited field or area.

In addition to the requirements of removing the bait from the field, DNR will require that a landowner erect signs on the area land or fields stating “No Hunting, Baited Field.” The signs must remain on the field for ten days after the removal of the bait from the field. If you are confused yet do not worry because this is not very easily deciphered at first glance. The main point is to not bait a field so close to season because it will invite more legal trouble than many wish to deal with. Dove season is broken down into segments with the first period starting on September 3rd and will run through September 18th; the second period will run from October 8th to October 28th; the third and final period will run from November 24th through January 15th. The limit is 15 per day and 45 in possession. If you are caught baiting a field remember it may very well keep you from being able to hunt that field for the majority of each period of dove season since the field will be closed for 10 days after the complete removal of bait from the field.

Many hunters in the area undoubtedly test the limits of this baiting statute. Should a hunter have engaged in baiting a field, the corn would have to be completely consumed by Tuesday August 23rd. This would allow for 10 days of no bait being on the field leading up to September 3rd. It is a very complicated process if you wish to risk baiting a field leading up to the season. The safest course of action is to refrain from baiting. It is not worth the risk of being charged and convicted of a misdemeanor.

Remember this is the first season of the year and the Georgia DNR Rangers will be patrolling to ensure everyone receives a fair hunt. They are there to enforce the law so that everyone has a chance to enjoy the great abundance of dove we have in the State of Georgia. The old adage applies to all of us dove hunters who wish to hunt and enjoy nature’s bounty without running afoul of the game warden, “Don’t go borrowing trouble.” It is not worth a misdemeanor on your record and having to shut down a good dove field because of baiting. Thanks to all the Georgia DNR Rangers who help us all to continue our good stewardship of Georgia’s Natural Resources in order for future generations to enjoy the same opportunities we enjoy today. Good luck this season and remember to always put a little Kentucky on your shots.

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