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Is It Legal?
Dove Field Rules and Regulations

The traditional September 1st dove season is almost upon us and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) is reminding hunters to check any dove field before they begin hunting to make sure it is not baited illegally.

 It is the responsibility of every hunter to be certain that he is not hunting over a baited field.  So how does a hunter know if it is legal to hunt a particular field?  The key to determining whether or not a field is legal is whether bona fide agricultural practices have been employed.  If corn, milo, wheat, or some other grain crop has been planted and harvested in a normal manner, it is perfectly legal to hunt.  However, if cracked corn, wheat, or some other grain has been poured on the ground in big piles, that is not a bona fide agricultural practice and would be illegally baited.

 Every hunter should check the field before beginning a dove hunt.  If a field has been freshly disked and has a large concentration of doves, check to see what type of grain is attracting the doves.  If there is cracked corn, soybeans, sunflower seeds, or other grain, and no evidence that those grains are simply typical remains from harvesting the crop that was grown there, it is best to leave.  If grain is present along with crop stubble that makes it apparent the crop was harvested from that field, it is legal.

 Wheat is sown at this time of year in Tennessee as a standard agricultural practice, so if a hunter checks a field which has been disked and sown with wheat, it may be legal.  But the wheat must be evenly distributed, not sown more than one time in the same area, and cannot exceed a normal planting rate.  If the wheat is in piles or deep strips, it is illegal.  If there is an excessive amount of wheat, even though it is evenly distributed, it is illegal.

 One thing a hunter should ask himself is, how well does he know the landowner?  Does he always comply with wildlife regulations?

Other Points to Consider:

While federal law allows the growing of a grain crop to be manipulated specifically for the purpose of attracting doves for hunting, the sowing of any grains immediately prior to or during the hunting season for the purpose of attracting doves is considered baiting and is illegal to hunt doves over. Provided, it is legal to plant winter grains in the fall to mature and be manipulated for dove hunting the following year's hunting season.


  •  Can I legally hunt doves over top sown winter wheat?  Yes, provided the wheat has been sown as a normal agricultural practice such as a grain crop, cover crop, pasture renovation, soil erosion control or wildlife winter food plot and conforms with the UT Agricultural Extension Service guidelines.

  •  Must wheat be sown on prepared ground?   No. Winter wheat is often no-till drilled into unprepared ground. Also, top sowing of winter grains in certain non-grain producing agricultural situations such as soil erosion control, and overseeding wheat or rye prior to harvesting soybeans, corn or cotton to establish a cover crop are recognized as normal agricultural practices in Tennessee. However, only for these specific situations listed above would it be legal to hunt doves over winter grains sown on unprepared ground.

  •  Can I sow a wheat field several times, say every three days, and shoot over it?   No. It is not a bona fide agricultural practice to sow grain several times in quick succession. In the absence of drought or flood, a planting should be done only one time on a seed bed prepared sufficiently to reasonably ensure germination.

  •  After a corn field is harvested and the entire field or strips are plowed up and planted in wheat, is this considered a legal field for dove hunting?   Yes, if done as a bona fide agricultural practice.

  •  Can part of a field be bushhogged at different times, such as four rows now and four rows later, and so on?  Yes. Manipulating a standing crop in this fashion is the most reliable way to attract doves over a longer period of time and to avoid any uncertainty regarding legality of the practice to attract doves for hunting.

  •  Can standing grains be bushhogged and additional grains be added to the field?   No.

  •  Can millet or sunflowers be top sown?   No.  Millet, corn, sunflower, milo, and many other grains are planted only in the spring. Refer to UT Agricultural Extension Service publication #PB378 for recommended planting dates and seeding rates.

  •  Can I top sow (broadcast) wheat over an unprepared pasture?  No. Winter wheat is not normally sown over pastures with adequate vegetative cover.

  •  Can I plant a wildlife food plot in the fall and shoot doves that are attracted to it?   Provided that fall-sown seeds and recommended planting rates and dates as published in the Field Crops Seeding Guide (UT Agricultural Extension publication #PB378) have been used in planting the wildlife plot, it is legal to shoot doves that may be attracted to the plot.

  •  Can I harvest a corn, milo or sunflower field and then redistribute the seed over the field?   No. You cannot distribute or scatter grain or other feed once it has been removed from or stored on the field where grown.

  •  Where can I obtain a copy of the UT Agricultural Extension Service publication #PB378, Field Crops Seeding Guide?  You can obtain a copy by contacting your county UT Agricultural Extension Service office, or by contacting:
    UT Agricultural Extension Service Mailroom
    University of Tennessee
    Knoxville, TN 37901-1071
    (865) 974-7208 FAX (865) 974-8850

Remember, an area is considered baited even ten days after all the bait has been removed. This regulation is to protect the doves, because they will continue to come back to a baited field for up to two weeks after the bait has been removed. If a hunter has any doubt that a field may be illegally baited, the best thing to do is leave the area and contact the TWRA. In west Tennessee, contact the Region I office in Jackson at 1-800-372-3928 or (901) 423-5725.


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