Message to Waterfowl Hunters in Illinois: Storm Damage and Baiting

Chris McCloud
Message to Waterfowl Hunters in Illinois: Storm Damage and Baiting
SPRINGFIELD, IL � Due to recent storms that moved across various portions of Illinois, some unharvested crops, particularly corn, have become damaged and blown to the ground.  The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) reminds hunters that these fields may be hunted in this condition; however, if damaged fields are manipulated in any way they become classified as baited. 

Manipulation, including mowing or tilling, of unharvested crop fields is not a normal agricultural practice for waterfowl hunting purposes, and federal baiting laws still apply, even during times of weather damage.  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 regarding baiting regulations at  Information on baiting and other Illinois regulations can be found in the Illinois Digest of Waterfowl Hunting here:

Questions regarding hunting crop fields disked, mowed, or tilled due to weather damage insurance claims:

1. If a standing grain crop is knocked down due solely to weather events (high wind), can the field be hunted? 
Yes, as long as the crops have only been knocked down as a result of weather, and no other manipulation has occurred.

2. Can an unharvested crop that was manipulated (disked, mowed, or tilled) to meet crop insurance requirements be 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. 

3. Can I hunt in a field that was harvested normally next to the damaged field?
Hunting near a baited field may be considered hunting within the �zone of influence� of the baited field and may also be illegal.  The zone of influence is an unspecified distance and varies by situation.  If you are exploiting waterfowl using a baited field, you are likely within the zone of influence and should not hunt that field.

4. Why can a person not hunt over a manipulated area? 
Under federal baiting regulations, mowing or tilling of an unharvested 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.

For specific questions, please contact the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement at 217-782-6431.
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