Hunting Laws Debated regarding Baited Fields

Article excerpt

A 1995 federal raid on a dove shoot in North Florida -- a bust

that netted several county sheriffs and state wildlife officers,

among others -- has helped spark a move to change the rules on

hunting over a baited area.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to issue draft

regulations in the next 30-90 days that would rewrite the

current rules on baiting. The new regulations could go into

effect for the 1998-99 hunting season.

The FWS acted following a House subcommittee hearing last month

on HR 741, the Migratory Bird Treaty Reform Act of 1997. The

legislation, currently in subcommittee, was introduced earlier

this year by Reps. Don Young, John Tanner and Cliff Stearns.

While there are several provisions in the legislation that

would supplant the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, the one

that has stirred debate addresses the baited field issue. It

would allow defendants in such cases to present evidence at

trial, and require that law enforcement officers prove a hunter

knew or should have known that an area was baited.

Under the current rules, it is illegal to hunt on or over a

baited area -- one in which grain, salt, etc. has been added --

and that area is still considered to be baited 10 days after

complete removal of the bait. Also, it's not necessary for a

hunter to know an area is baited to be in violation.

The FWS draft regulations are expected to mirror the provision

in HR 741 that eliminates the present strict liability standard

used in baiting cases and replaces it with a knew/should have

known standard.

Hunting migratory birds such as doves and ducks that are

attracted to an area by normal agricultural practices is within

the law.

"You can grow a crop, harvest it, and all the grain that's

spilled is natural and that's not a problem," said Dewey Weaver

of the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission. …