Louisiana waterfowl hunters should make sure they are following the law when hunting in crop-damaged areas of the state this year, according to a wildlife specialist with the LSU AgCenter.

Don Reed said recent storms left the state with an estimated $1 billion in crop damage, which includes extensive damage to milo, corn, rice and soybean fields.

“In many cases, small grain crops have been knocked over, causing them to become much more of an attractant to migratory waterfowl,” Reed said. “Hunters need to understand that weather-related events such as these do not constitute an illegal manipulation, and crops in this condition can be legally hunted over.”

The wildlife specialist further cautioned hunters, however, that any activity in these fields to deal with the current crop or to prepare the field for future crops very likely will be considered a pre-harvest manipulation that renders the area illegal for waterfowl hunting purposes.

Illegal manipulation regarding waterfowl hunting means altering agricultural crops by such activities as mowing, shredding, disking, rolling, chopping, trampling, flattening, burning or herbicide treatments prior to harvest.

“Any areas treated in this manner are considered baited for a period of 10 days, even after all grain is removed from the field. As far as hunting adjacent to baited fields, hunters are cautioned that there is no set distance that makes this practice legal. Court rulings have varied on this distance issue in the past.”

Reed said the influence of bait will increase or decrease, depending on such factors as topography, weather and waterfowl flight patterns.

Even if a person is hunting a considerable distance from a baited field, if it can be shown that birds are being influenced to that location as a result of bait in another location, the hunter is in violation of the waterfowl-baiting regulations.

Reed said if people hunt in or near crop-damaged fields during the upcoming waterfowl season, they should be familiar with what practices have occurred in these areas to determine if they are hunting legally.

For further information on the state’s hunting laws, contact Reed at (225) 683-5848 or visit the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Web site.