Regulation change allows dove hunting over wheat in AL

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Unexpected change makes top-sown wheat legal for dove fields

Ruling goes against agreement made before season opened

10/07/01

By ALAN CLEMONS, Birmingham News Outdoors Editor aclemons@htimes.com

Top-sown wheat has been ruled a bonafide agricultural practice and is therefore legal for dove fields, resulting in a mid-season change in hunting regulations that ends a "gentleman's agreement" between the Conservation Department and Alabama Cooperative Extension System at Auburn University.

Conservation commissioner Riley Smith signed an emergency regulation change last Wednesday making it legal to hunt over top sown wheat. The definition change of a bona fide agricultural practice created a discrepancy between federal and state laws. Smith had to sign the order to maintain consistency with federal regulations.


"We regret the obvious inconvenience this will cause landowners, and it is also an inconvenience to our law enforcement personnel," Smiths said. "It was my understanding this regulation (definition) would be rendered in January, but now that it's published it forces us to change our regulations accordingly."

The Department of Interior use recommendations of the Cooperative Extension Service to determine normal agricultural planting procedures. The latest change allows for a one-time only application of no more than 200 pounds per acre of wheat. A bona fide attempt to cover the seed by cultipacking, discing, raking, etc., also must be made.

Smith said he had reached a verbal agreement with Alabama Cooperative Extension Service officials before the Sept. 15 opening of the dove season to delay any decision changes about top sown wheat. That would ensure uniform regulations throughout the season, he said.

"It is fortunate the new regulation is more liberal and will not adversely impact dove hunters," Smith said.

For more specific wording on the regulation, contact the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources at (334) 242-3465.

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Outdoors Columnist Mike Bolton

Dove laws take flight during week

10/07/01

This past week was a bizarre one for hunting laws in Alabama.

Had you been caught dove hunting over top-sown wheat last Sunday, you would have been a federal criminal subject to some hefty fines. Had federal officers caught you hunting on the same field on Monday, you would have been perfectly legal.

Had an Alabama conservation officer caught you on that field Monday, however, you would have been in violation of Alabama law.

On Tuesday, had either federal or state officers caught you hunting on that field, you would have been legal.

To make the whole episode even more odd, it all came about because of an announcement that the Alabama Cooperative Extension System at Auburn University made to farmers.

Hunting over top-sown wheat has caused a lot of controversy in recent years. Hunting over wheat not planted, but scattered on the ground, was first illegal, then legal, then illegal and now, legal again.

Federal dove hunting laws are strange in that there are no set laws for every state as to what crops can be hunted over. The law states that it is legal to hunt over any crop considered to be a legitimate farming practice as approved by the authority of agriculture in that state.

When the Alabama Cooperative Extension System at Auburn University suddenly announced Monday that top-sowing of wheat was now a recommended practice for Alabama farmers, the federal law changed in that instant.

That announcement caused some major problems for Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, however. The Auburn announcement created an immediate discrepancy between state and federal regulations. A landowner or hunter with a top-sown wheat field could be fined by state authorities but not federal authorities.

With state dove hunting laws for the 2001-2002 season long approved and in print and the Conservation Advisory Board not due to meet again until next year, the situation got in a tizzy in a hurry.

Riley Boykin Smith, commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said he was told the Auburn announcement would not be made until next year. Instead, he was caught off guard.

Smith said he was forced to invoke a seldom-used power that allows him to make an emergency regulation change separate from the Conservation Advisory Board.

"We regret the obvious inconvenience this will cause landowners, and it is also an inconvenience to our law enforcement personnel," Smith said. "It was my understanding that this regulation would be rendered in January, but now that it is published, it forces us to change our regulations accordingly."

Dove hunters shouldn't get the idea that they can now put piles of wheat in a dove field and do it every weekend of the season and be legal. Federal law reads that it not only must be a recommended farming method, it must, too, be a recommended farming practice.

In other words, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System's recommendation that the seeding rate be no more than 200 pounds per acre is also federal law. That recommendation also states that seeds should be uniformly distributed and applied only once per year.
 

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