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Friday, August 31, 2012

Waterfowl Woes

It's no secret that waterfowl are my passion. This years horrendous drought has had us wondering what kind of waterfowl season we might be looking at here in southern Illinois. Much debate about whether it will be better.. whether it will be worse.. whether we will even see a bird.

As I sit here pondering, rethinking, adjusting strategies, gear, and plans; all because of this damned drought, a press release from Illinois Department of Natural resources lands in my in box, like a goose gliding into the decoys.

However, it was not nearly as warmly received as said goose.

Here is the release in it's entireity:
Message to Waterfowl Hunters 
Due to ongoing drought conditions in Illinois, some farmers are mowing or tilling their unharvested crop fields to collect crop insurance payments.  The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) reminds hunters that the manipulation, including mowing or tilling, of unharvested crop fields is not a normal agricultural practice for waterfowl hunting purposes. The IDNR has received guidance on this issue from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Federal baiting laws still apply, even during times of drought.  Therefore, it is a violation of the baiting laws under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act if scattered grain is not totally removed 10 days prior to hunting.  Hunters should familiarize themselves with baiting laws in Illinois.  For more information on waterfowl baiting regulations, refer to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website link regarding baiting regulations at
Questions regarding hunting crop fields mowed or tilled due to drought insurance claims:

1. If a standing grain crop is 100% void of any ears (corn field produced no ears), can the field be mowed then hunted? 
Yes, as long as there is no grain present in the field.  A field that produces NO ears of corn will probably be a rare occurrence.

2. If a standing grain crop has any amount of grain present after it is mowed, can it be hunted? 
No, it is a “baited area” until 10 days after the complete removal of the grain.

3. Can a standing crop that was mowed be disked and made legal for hunting? 
The field can only be hunted after all exposed grain has been completely removed or buried for a period of 10 days.  Hunters should keep in mind that if a dry field is tilled to the extent that no grain is visibly present, strong winds or the first rain is likely to wash off some covered grain, thus still making it a baited situation.

4. Why can a person not hunt over a mowed area? 
Under federal baiting regulations, mowing or tilling of a standing crop is not a “normal agricultural planting, harvesting, post-harvest manipulation, or normal soil stabilization practice” as determined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Cooperative Extension Service.

Below is a link to the pertaining sections of the 2011-2012 Illinois Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations that provide additional information on migratory bird hunting and federal baiting regulations. 

For questions about federal baiting regulations, please call 217-782-6431, Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
For more information on baiting regulations in Illinois:

An here's my initial and albeit knee jerk reaction - GIVE ME BREAK!

It's not as if the drought was anything we could control. It  has been a record setting and historical drought with far reaching implications that are completely beyond hunters' control. Farmers are merely doing what must be done, they are simply trying any and all ways to salvage what is literally a disaster.

Are these "normal agricultural practices" ? Of course not; but nor is this by any stretch of any bureaucratic imagination a normal agricultural year.

Personally, I feel this should have been taken into consideration. I do understand that there are those few bad apples who would use this as  baiting method, use this as "free pass" so to speak to actually perform baiting activities and blame it on a farmer - but MY hope is that those would be rare occurrences.

This mandate essentially wipes several of my hunting areas as I know with the struggles this year's drought has wrought, asking the farmer/landowner to take the extra steps needed to insure that the area is not considered baited is simply just asking too much.

I can see right now that I am going to be hyper vigilant; plan more carefully and inspect hunting areas with an eagle eyed vigilance to insure that I do not inadvertently break any baiting laws.

Just one more waterfowl woe for this upcoming season.

This Duck Junkie just may end up experiencing withdrawals!

Am I alone in my initial thoughts? What say you fellow waterfowlers? Let's talk about this!


  1. I believe mowing down crops would be 'normal agricultural practices' due to the circumstances. Come on IDNR!

  2. I completely agree Marti!

  3. Not a waterfowler quite yet, but..
    This seems like an absolutely NORMAL practice, and the laws are utterly ridiculous.
    If someone could point out the benefit for wildlife, I would certainly reconsider. As it is? I aint seeing it.

  4. For a drought such as this - yes I feel they should consider those "normal agricultural" practices - but alas the feds do not. We can only hope that the enforcement officers, both federal and state, use discretion and common sense when determining if a hunter has truly baited or is simply stuck in a predicament of making the best effort to insure they are set up in area free of accidental grain.