Delta Waterfowl, Arkansas Senate Clarify Baiting

The scary thing about baiting laws is how easily a duck hunter can unknowingly violate one. This is not to suggest I am sympathetic to those who knowingly bait waterfowl—the book ought to be thrown at them. However, the laws also ought to be fair, uniform and easily understood. Unfortunately even in a normal year that is often not the case, and 2012 was no normal year for agriculture.

Take Arkansas for instance. Due to a summer drought, rice fields were harvested early; but then heavy rains finally came, resulting in a rare, secondary "ratoon" rice crop. That's when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) stepped in, warning Arkansas duck hunters that if any of the new rice heads were manipulated (such as through the common post-harvest practice of "rolling"), the fields would be considered baited. Many waterfowlers, including me, disagreed with this interpretation of the regulations.

So, last month Sens. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and John Boozman (R-Ark.) introduced legislation to overrule the USFWS decree. And Delta Waterfowl sent a letter to USFWS law enforcement officials requesting a moratorium on citing hunters for manipulation of ratoon rice crops.

"The normal farming practice is they roll their crop after the harvest is done,” Pryor told the Times Record. “Baiting a field was never their intent."

Duck season is likely to end before Congress can act on the bill; however, Pryor hopes it serves as a starting point for next year. With any luck it will also dissuade game wardens from prosecuting those who unwittingly hunt manipulated ratoon rice crops.

"Baiting laws by their nature are very complicated. The proposed legislation may provide time for a sober review,” John Devney, director of U.S. policy for Delta Waterfowl, told the Times Record. "In this case, there was a fairly exceptional set of circumstances that turned a bunch of folks into violators who certainly didn’t have that intent."

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1 Response to Delta Waterfowl, Arkansas Senate Clarify Baiting

mike kanipe wrote:
January 09, 2013

it is my understanding as long as it is a farming practise it is not aginst the law. so am i wrong about that.if you do the same thing every year it should not be illegal.that is the way it is in north carolina.we cut a wheat field every yr just before dove season and the game warden checks us every yr i have never got a ticket