Hunting Doves Over Crops: What’s Legal? What’s Not? – Clarification on Baiting

Hunting Doves Over Crops: What’s Legal? What’s Not? – Clarification on Baiting

Some young Washington County hunters with a nice bag of doves.
Photo Credit: Andrew Fleener

In the past my colleagues and I have written several articles about the establishment and management of dove fields (linked below). These articles tend to focus on what and when to plant to successfully attract doves. The focus has been on the field, not on the hunting. Conversely, this document will focus on the hunting. The following guidelines and explanations are intended to help provide clarity and prevent misunderstandings regarding what is and is not permissible where agricultural practices and dove hunting intersect in Florida.

Mourning Dove are a favorite game species in NW Florida. Before you hunt, be sure you understand all of the regulations. Especially those relating to baiting.
Photo Credit: Brett Marshall, Sault College,

First, as it relates to dove, it is permissible to plant any crop you like, by any means you like, with the intention of hunting in the vicinity of the crop. The issue is not with planting – it is with hunting. UF/IFAS provides specific recommendations (planting dates & techniques, seeding rates, varieties, etc.) for a wide variety of crops. While growers are encouraged to follow these recommendations to maximize their chances of having as successful crop, following these recommendations (or not) does not dictate the legality of hunting.

It is commonly understood that baiting doves (and other migratory birds) with the intent to harvest is not permissible. However, when agricultural practices are involved what constitutes baiting may not always be as readily understood. Let’s start the explanation with excerpts from Title 50, Chapter 1, Subchapter B, Part 20 and 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations (the federal law that pertains to the hunting of migratory birds).

(j) Baited area means any area on which salt, grain, or other feed has been placed, exposed, deposited, distributed, or scattered, if that salt, grain, or other feed could serve as a lure or attraction for migratory game birds to, on, or over areas where hunters are attempting to take them. Any such area will remain a baited area for ten days following the complete removal of all such salt, grain, or other feed.

(k) Baiting means the direct or indirect placing, exposing, depositing, distributing, or scattering of salt, grain, or other feed that could serve as a lure or attraction for migratory game birds to, on, or over any areas where hunters are attempting to take them.

20.21 What hunting methods are illegal? … (i) By the aid of baiting, or on or over any baited area, where a person knows or reasonably should know that the area is or has been baited. However nothing in this paragraph prohibits: … (2) The taking of any migratory game bird, except waterfowl, coots and cranes, on or over lands or areas that are not otherwise baited areas, and where grain or other feed has been distributed or scattered solely as the result of manipulation of an agricultural crop or other feed on the land where grown, or solely as the result of a normal agricultural operation.

Note: Bolding in the above text was inserted by the author for illustrative purposes.

All of this boils down to a few simple concepts. In Florida…

1) The only seed (grain) you can legally hunt over is that coming from the crop grown in the field where the grain is found. The grain must have grown in the field and have never left the field. If you place, expose, deposit, distribute, or scatter any new/additional grain including grain that may have been harvested from that field and then returned after cleaning, storing, processing, etc. you are baiting.

2) Any seed or grain placed, exposed, deposited, distributed, or scattered in the field must be completely removed for 10 days prior to hunting the field. In this context, completely removed can mean physical removal (ie. buried/planted under the ground) or germination (after a seed germinates it becomes a plant – plants are legal).

For a field to be legal to hunt, no seed, other than that grown in the field, can be visible on the soil surface for at least 10 days prior to hunting.  Put very plainly, if there is any seed visible at the time of hunting there should be plants (or plant residue) present that match the seed. If you want to hunt dove over grain/seed of any kind you must have grown the grain crop to maturity and produced the grain on-site. You cannot hunt over any grain/seed that has been transported to the field. Again, you may plant any crop you like by whatever means you like but if your planting practices result in seed being visible on top of the ground you may not legally hunt over the field until all seed has been gone/covered for 10 days.


Further Reading:

Get Started Dove Hunting

Dove Hunting Resources

Dove Hunting Regulations

Planning Ahead for Dove Season

Timing is Crucial for Successful Dove Fields 

Don’t Forget About Wildlife Habitat Projects This Spring

Now is the Perfect Time to Treat Cogongrass – Make it Count

Without question, Cogongrass is the most troublesome invasive plant that I (and my clients) deal with. Here in Northwest Florida, we have a lot of it, and it is very difficult to manage. It has been my observation that the difficulty of management and limited early success often lead to frustration and ultimately a loss of interest in control efforts on the part of landowners/managers. This is the absolute worst-case scenario, as diligence over time is paramount to successfully managing cogongrass. With all this in mind, optimizing the impact of the initial control effort is crucial both in terms of biology (efficacy on the plants) and psychology (keeping the landowner encouraged and motivated). If you have cogongrass to fight, take every step you can to get the absolute best results you can, out of every treatment, especially the first one.

Cogongrass is highly invasive, difficult to control and widespread in Northwest Florida. Phot Credit: Mark Mauldin

The following is a discussion of some of the steps you can take to maximize the efficacy of your control efforts.

1) Timing Matters

Cogongrass is best treated with a fall-spring, one-two punch. Mid-summer and mid-winter treatments are not advisable. NOW is the time to treat. As I write this it is mid-October with rain on the way – by the time this is published the front will have passed and the timing will be perfect. If you ask me the absolute best time of year to treat cogongrass, I will tell you, without hesitation, “October through November, before first frost, with good soil moisture”.  Spray now and be prepared to spray again in the spring when you have at least 12 inches of green leaf and good soil moisture.  With that one-two successfully delivered you should see significant reduction in the size of the infestation by this time next year. Keep repeating the spring-fall process until you can no longer find any cogongrass.

Getting good herbicide coverage over all of the characteristically lime green foliage of cogongrass is essential for good control. Photo Credit: Mark Mauldin

2) Coverage & Leaf Area are Crucial

To make the most out of each treatment you must maximize the amount of chemical you get into the plant. This is done by getting thorough coverage on as much green leaf area as possible. Make sure you have plenty of green leaves (at least 12inches) and spray them like you’re painting a wall. You don’t want runoff, but you want every square inch of leaf covered with spray. Don’t mow or burn for at least 30 days after you spray. Cogongrass can be hard to spot, especially if it is growing mixed with other grasses/green foliage. Look diligently to find the edge of the patch and then spray 10ft past the known edge on all sides of the patch.  

3) Get the Spray Mixture Right

Notice, I didn’t say pick the right chemical. There’s more to it than that. The following recommendations will be based on using the active ingredient glyphosate. (Imazapyr is also very effective on cogongrass, but due to its soil activity it is inherently more complicated to use and ensure the safety of desirable plants near the treatment area. I am not comfortable recommending imazapyr without first seeing the site where it is to be applied and discussing the risk to other vegetation with the landowner. Glyphosate must enter a plant through a green leaf making it much easier for applicators to ensure the safety of desirable vegetation.)

Generally speaking, the efficacy of glyphosate will increase if a water conditioner and surfactant are included in the spray solution.  To clarify, this would be 3 separate products going into the spray tank – one herbicide and two adjuvants. The preferred water conditioner would be a 34% liquid Ammonium Sulfate (AMS) product and the surfactant would be an 80/20 Non-ionic surfactant (NIS). These products should be available anywhere ag chemicals are sold (not the garden center at a big box store) under many different name brands. Selecting a glyphosate product can be somewhat confusing, simply because there are so many different products on the market. The product amounts listed below are based on a 41%, 3lbs acid equivalent (ae) per gallon glyphosate product. This is a relatively common formulation, but there are many others available. All can be effective; it is just a matter of value and correctly adjusting the rate to match the formulation you are using.   

An example mixture for treating a small patch with a hand-held single nozzle sprayer:

Fill spray tank ½ – ¾ full of water (run agitation if available)

For each gallon of spray solution you are making add:

  • 3.2oz of 34% AMS water conditioner (add this first and let it completely mix before proceeding)
  • 5oz of 41% 3lbs ae glyphosate herbicide
  • 0.5oz of 80/20 NIS

Finish filling spray tank

For a broadcast application using a tractor mounted sprayer or other similar equipment, mix a spray solution such that 1 gallon of 41%, 3lbae glyphosate herbicide is applied per acre. Ideally this would be delivered in 10-20 gallons of water (be sure spray equipment is properly calibrated). Add a liquid AMS water conditioning product at 2% v/v before adding herbicide to the tank. Add a non-ionic surfactant (80/20 NIS) at 1qt per 50-100 gallons of spray solution after the herbicide has been added.

I understand that nobody likes to have to deal with all the numbers, especially the various formulations of glyphosate. Unfortunately, that’s just part of it… There are so many different products out there that the numbers are necessary to communicate the recommendations in a way that is widely applicable. Please don’t hesitate to contact me or your local UF/IFAS Extension Agent for assistance sourcing vegetation management products or tailoring the recommendations to match the specific products you have on hand. The most important thing is to get the mixture right and make the application be as effective as possible.

Wildlife Food Plots: A Quick Guide to Success

Wildlife Food Plots: A Quick Guide to Success

With the recent discovery of CWD in Florida and the subsequent prohibition of feeding deer within the CWD Management Zone there has been some additional motivation applied to hunters/land managers to establish new food plots. Moreover, the timing and unexpected nature of the discovery have hunter/land managers somewhat in “scramble mode” to make the shift away from feeders to plantings before archery season starts (10/21 in the Panhandle). Whether or not you are in the CWD Management Zone or if you have been contemplating establishing food plots for a long time the following comments are worth considering as you work through the process of establishing a new food plot.

CWD Management Zone Map. Feeding and/or baiting deer is no longer allowed within the management zone (red area on map). Courtesy

First, food plots are not corn feeders. That is to say that food plots should be viewed as habitat improvements, not attractants (even though they may well improve the likelihood of seeing deer and other game species at a specific location) and their success should be evaluated accordingly. Food plots have the most positive impact when they are maintained year-round with cool and warm season plantings. They are long term investments.

When it comes to food plots, size really does matter.  Food plots need to be no less than ½ acre in size, preferably between 1 and 5 acres. Maximum habitat benefit being reached when food plots make up approximately 5 percent of the managed acreage. The kinds of plants in food plots are, by design, ones that wildlife find highly desirable (because they are highly nutritious). Considering this, it is easy to understand why plantings smaller than ½ acre struggle to establish – the plants simply don’t get a chance grow past the seedling stage.

After a location is identified, it is crucial to manage unwanted vegetation prior to preparing the soil and planting the food plot. If it is not eliminated, existing vegetation will compete tremendously with food plot plantings. Even if mechanical disturbance (disking, tilling, etc.) appears to remove the existing vegetation, much of it will regrow. This regrowth from established root systems will be more than a match for new seedlings. Apply herbicide before you begin soil preparation. Equally as important, give the herbicide sufficient time to do its work before mechanically disturbing the site (weeks, not days). Specific herbicide recommendations will vary depending on what vegetation you are trying to manage, but most food plot site prep applications will involve fairly high rates of glyphosate. Don’t hesitate to call me (850-638-6180) – we can discuss your site and dial in an herbicide recommendation. You do not want to skip this step; get in front of weed pressure before you plant.

If you want a food plot to be productive and successful you must effectively address soil fertility. First and foremost, soil pH must be corrected. Any needed applications of lime/dolomite need to take place first, well before any other fertilizer is applied (ag lime can take months to go into soil solution and alter soil pH). If fertilizers are applied before the soil pH is corrected the nutrients may still be unavailable to the plants. Once a food plot site is determined, collect a representative sample of the rooting zone soil and submit it to a lab for analysis. This is the best way to get the information needed to make informed choices regarding lime and fertilizer applications. Talk with the folks at your local Extension Office for more info on how to collect and submit soil samples. Take and submit soil samples now. Apply any need lime soon, during land preparation. Apply recommended fertilizer (N, P, K, and micros) at planting or soon after emergence. Fertilizer applied when there are no plant roots present to adsorb it is wasted.

By far the most common food plot question I receive is “what should I plant?”. I intentionally held this until last because if the topics above are not addressed properly plantings will not be successful. I included the table below to help answer the “what should I plant?” question. To accompany the table, here are some additional statements to help guide your crop selection.

Note the exclusion cages in the plots of forages being evaluated at the University of Florida’s North Florida Research and Education Center. Photo Courtesy of Holly Ober
  • Forage varieties matter. Use varieties that will work in Florida (see table for specifics). There are lots of forages sold that will not grow well locally. Sourcing seed can be challenging, start now.
  • The concept of blending forages is great, and highly recommended. That said, be careful with pre-packaged mixtures. You’ll generally get more of the “good stuff” by putting together your own blend. When making your own blend, use ½ of the high end of the seeding rate for each forage you include. Don’t go crazy, 3-5 different forages is plenty.
  • Try to utilize forages are well adapted to your site. The table shows varieties that are adapted to Florida and includes comments on site preference as it relates to drainage. You need to account for your site’s drainage characteristics when selecting forage varieties. Excessively well drained – deep sands; Moderately well drained – good soil by FL standards; Poorly drained – stays damp and/or will stand water seasonally.
  • If deer are the primary game species you are managing, focus on broadleaf plants (legumes and brassicas), not grasses. Hunters like grasses because they come up fast and are relatively easy to grow, deer like broadleaf plants because they are generally more digestible and higher in nutrients. Some grass in the blend is fine but don’t skimp on the broadleaves.
  • Some of the broad-leaved plants, particularly clovers, are highly preferred by deer but somewhat slow to establish. This combination can make it appear that the clovers don’t come up at all or preform very poorly. Before you jump to those conclusions, I would encourage you to use an exclusion cage or two in your plot. The cage will show you how the plant performs without grazing pressure. A few years of observation can really enable you to dial in what your deer prefer the most and adjust your plantings accordingly.
  • Don’t forget about planting date and depth. To keep life simple, let’s say that everything included on the table should be planted between October 1 and November 15 (ideally, triticale, wheat, and rye would be held until after October 15). Planting depth is very important and is a major factor in determining which forages can/should be planted together. It is perfectly acceptable to plant the deeper seeded grasses first and then come back over the field to plant the shallow seeded broadleaves. To achieve a target planting depth of ½” or less the soil will need to be packed prior to planting.

Food plots are not simple, but they can be very rewarding. There are way more factors to consider than what I included here. See the additional resources linked below and contact your local Extension Office or myself to discuss further.

Printable Cool Season Forage Table

More Resources:

Establishing and Maintaining Wildlife Food Sources

A Walk on the Wild Side: Cool-Season Forage Recommendations for Wildlife Plots in North Florida

Comments on Cool-Season Wildlife Food Plots

Comments on Cool-Season Wildlife Food Plots

A buck chases a doe through plots of wildlife forages being evaluated at the University of Florida’s North Florida Research and Education Center. Photo Courtesy of Holly Ober

When I sat down to start writing this article, I was thinking it would be a rewrite of an article I posted back in 2016, Don’t Rush Wildlife Plantings – Wait for the Rain. The prolonged period of dry weather which the Panhandle has been experiencing and the time of year made the topic appropriate. However, I am happy to report that it has rained almost two inches at my house in Chipley in the past 24 hours. This changes things a bit – at least for those of us who were fortunate enough to have received rain. For those who did not get rain, see the aforementioned article. If you did get rain, it’s time to start getting some seed in the ground.

All that said, instead of just focusing on dry conditions I am going to share some highlights from recent conversations I’ve had regarding the establishment of cool-season food plots. For the sake of brevity, I may not elaborate fully on each point, feel free to call of email me if you have any questions or would like to discuss further.

  • Check your pH. Collect a good representative sample from each of your food plots and have it analyzed by a reputable lab. Contact you County Extension Office for help with this. Food plots are notorious for being planted on marginal sites (not good farmland) where the pH needs to be modified. Poor pH will inhibit plant performance and reduce plant response to really expensive fertilizer applications. In general, food plots perform the best with a pH of 6 – 6.5.
  • You’re gonna have to make those really expensive fertilizer applications if you want to see real plant performance. See the comment above about marginal sites. Even good soils require fertilizer to make a good crop. A lab analysis is the only way to know exactly what you need. Just for the sake of reference, applications of 300lbs of 13-13-13 per acre as soon as the plants are up good is a pretty standard starting point and generally multiple applications are needed during the season.
  • Deer like broadleaf plants considerably more than they like grasses. Cool-season grasses (oat, wheat, triticale, cereal rye) are relatively inexpensive and easy to grow. Deer will utilize them some and game birds will feed on seed heads in the spring.  
  • Brassicas (Kale, Rape, Radish, Turnip, Swede) are broad-leafed and grow very quickly on a wide variety of soil types. Unfortunately, deer preference for them is somewhat hit-or-miss and they are not readily utilized by other game species.   
  • Cool-Season legumes (clover, winter peas, vetch) are generally what deer show the greatest preference for and, when properly inoculated, do not require any nitrogen fertilizer. Cool-season legumes are somewhat finicky about what soil types they will perform well on. They all like moderately well drained heavier soils with some clay content (good upland farm ground) and they all struggle in deep, excessively drained sands. For sites on the wetter side (more poorly drained) look at white clovers. For sites on the drier side (well to excessively drained) look at the vetch, peas, and maybe crimson clover.
  • In general, seed size dictates optimum planting depth. Large seeds (grasses, vetch, peas) can be planted deeper (1-2 inches). Small seeds (clover) need to be planted very shallow (0-0.5 inches). This variation in planting depth likely will necessitate separate techniques for large and small seeds as small seeds planted too deeply will fail to emerge. Small seeds, like clover, need to be planted into a firm seed bed. To achieve a firm seed bed, prepare soil and wait for the tilled soil to settle and preferably become rain packed. If waiting is not an option soil should be firmed with a cultipacker or roller.  

Much more information on cool-season planting options is available in the document:

A Walk on the Wild Side: 2021 Cool-Season Forage Recommendations for Wildlife Food Plots in North Florida.

Don’t hesitate to contact me to discuss any of the points above in greater detail. Mark Mauldin; 850-638-6180.

Chronic Wasting Disease Gets Closer to Florida

Chronic Wasting Disease Gets Closer to Florida

Below is a bulletin sent out by Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission on 01/10/2022 02:53

Chronic wasting disease or CWD was recently detected in a hunter-harvested deer in northwestern Alabama, making it the 28th state where CWD has been documentedIt’s the first time CWD has been detected in a state that borders Florida. CWD, which is a brain and central nervous system disease that is always fatal to members of the deer family, has not been detected in Florida.

The FWC asks people who plan to hunt deer, elk, moose, caribou or other members of the deer family outside of Florida to be vigilant in helping reduce the risk of CWD spreading into Florida. An important step is to be aware of and follow the rules that prohibit importing or possessing whole carcasses or high-risk parts of all species of the deer family originating from any place outside of Florida.

Under the new rules, which took effect July 2021, people may only import into Florida:

  • De-boned meat
  • Finished taxidermy mounts
  • Clean hides and antlers
  • Skulls, skull caps and teeth if all soft tissue has been removed

The only exception to this rule is deer harvested from a property in Georgia or Alabama that is bisected by the Florida state line AND under the same ownership may be imported into Florida. For more information about the new rules, see this infographic and video.

These rule changes continue the FWC’s work to protect Florida’s deer populations from CWD spreading into the state.





Click Here for more information on CWD