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Dove season starts soon, but hunters are warned of illegal baiting
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Freshly-harvested cornfields make good dove hunting opportunities, but hunters are warned against baiting the birds.
    Dove season opens Sept. 1, and hunters will be hitting the fields in hopes of bagging their limit. However, many hunters may not realize the difference between legal hunting over "normal agricultural operations" and hunting over bait, said Georgia Department of Natural Resources Sgt. William Vickers.
    Hunting over a field planted in spring or early summer "is a legal activity and by far the most common situation in Georgia," he said. Also, field planted in  the late summer or fall are legal providing the crops were planted as "part of a normal agricultural operation."
    This means fields of corn, millet, sunflowers, sorghum and wheat are legal and good places to attract doves, which primarily feed upon grains and seeds found on the ground.
    However, "sweetening" or adding to a field by scattering any type of grain or other substance to attract birds is considered baiting and can land a hunter in jail, he said.
    Baiting is "the practice of direct or indirect placing, exposing, depositing, distributing or scattering of salt, corn, wheat or any other grain or feed that could serve as a lure or attraction for doves to, on or over any areas where hunters are attempting to take  them," he said.
    Even after grains or other  bait are removed, the area is considered baited for 10 days after the removal, he said. To hunt over previously baited areas before the 10 days are up is a violation of law, he said.
    Hunters are allowed to hunt over fields planted for agricultural reasons, even if they have been manipulated by practices such as mowing, harrowing, flattening, burning, bush-hogging or using herbicides to make the grain left in the field available to the birds, Vickers said.
    But intentionally redistributing, scattering or sowing any seeds or grains is illegal, he warned.
    Dove hunting over fields that have been "top sown" - planted by scattering seeds above the ground and not tilled into the soil - is also illegal. And if fields of small grains were planted before  Oct. 1 or after Dec. 15, hunters cannot legally take birds from these areas.
    If there is any doubt about whether a field has been baited, Vickers advises leaving it alone. "Whenever a hunter experiences doubt as to the legality of a field, he or she should unload their shotgun and leave." And if you find corn scattered in a sunflower field or sunflowers in a millet field, likely the field has been baited.
    Cracked corn, scratch feed, rock salt and any foreign grains or substances are clear evidence of baiting, he said.
    But hunting over shelled and corn on cobs that fell from the combine, wheat or oats that spilled from the grain truck or any substance found on the ground naturally is legal, he said.
    In Georgia, dove season opens Sept. 1 and runs through  Sept. 15. The second round of dove season is Oct. 6-15, and the  third phase is Nov. 22 to Jan. 5.
    Shooting ours are from noon to sunset on opening day of the first two seasons, and from a half hour before sunrise to sunset otherwise, he said. The daily limit for doves per hunter is 12.
    While hunting, dove hunters must have on hand a Georgia hunting license, as well as a valid Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program (HIP) permit, Vickers said. The HIP permit is free and can be obtained anywhere hunting licenses are available after filling out a migratory bird hunter questionnaire. Those holding honorary hunting licenses are exempt from needing a HIP permit.
    Also, any auto loading shotgun or other repeating shotgun must be plugged to hold only three shot shells at a time while hunting dove, he said.
    For more information access Internet web site or call the DNR's Metter office at (912) 685-6424.
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