An Arkansas lawmaker is renewing efforts to allow duck hunting over rolled rice fields, an effort that has drawn the backing of waterfowl organizations.
The Memphis Commercial Appeal reports that U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford R-Ark. plans to reintroduce legislation this year in the new Congress that would clarify that hunting over a rolled rice field is not “baiting,” as claimed by state and federal wildlife agencies.
The legislation, originally introduced by Mississippi Rebublican Senators Thad Chochran and Roger Wicker, along with the entire Arkansas delegation, died in the last Congress after it was introduced in mid-December.
The legislation, which has drawn praise from Ducks Unlimited, also makes it legal to shoot coots and cranes over rolled fields.
Duck hunting season ends this month in Mississippi and Arkansas.
Many landowners in Mississippi lease their farmland to hunters but some leases have had to be returned because of U.S. Fish and Wildlife requirements, costing farmers and hunters money.
In an associated press story, Thomas E. Moorman, director of Science and Public Policy for Ducks Unlimited’s Southern region, said a million of acres of rice are grown in the Lower Mississippi Valley along a major flight path for migratory ducks and geese.
Moorman said the second growth in rice — called “ratoon” — is often not worth the cost to harvest.
If it is harvested, there’s no problem hunting over it. If it is rolled flat to rot in the field through the winter that can be interpreted as baiting, he said.
He said the burden is always on the hunter to determine whether he or she is hunting legally.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife spokesman Brent Lawrence said most citations for field baiting are made by state and local enforcement officials with “an incredibly small percentage” resulting in federal charges under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.