A Boise federal grand jury has indicted a Parma farmer who is accused of putting corn in a field to lure ducks within shooting range.
Under federal law, it is illegal to hunt waterfowl in an area where seed or grain is used as a lure unless the seed or grain is scattered solely as the result of normal agricultural harvesting. Birds cannot resist the easily obtained food, making them easy targets for hunters, which can lead to overharvesting.
The farmer, Gregory Obendorf, denies the government’s allegations.
“We are a little troubled by the case, because the government elected to proceed with an indictment rather than handling it by issuing a notice of violation, which would be more typical in a wildlife violation,” said Julie Klein Fischer, a Nampa lawyer defending Obendorf with lawyer George Breitsameter. “We are not aware of any other baiting case (in Idaho) where the government has accused a farmer that their agricultural practices constitute the criminal offense of baiting.”
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According to the indictment issued Nov. 10:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents who were in a plane over the Boise River in Canyon County on Nov. 15, 2013, observed several piles of corn kernels near a duck-hunting blind. The blind was on private land leased by Obendorf.
Since at least 2004, Obendorf has leased the land north of the river on the east side of U.S. 95 near Parma for farming and duck hunting.
Later that day, an Idaho Fish and Game officer visited the site and determined that corn planted in the field did not appear to be properly harvested. The officer began an investigation.
U.S. attorneys allege that from November 2007 through January 2014, Obendorf conspired with other people by planting the field with corn “with the intention that it would be used to bait migratory ducks.” No one else is named in the indictment, although several people are referred to by their initials.
The indictment details several times when Obendorf supposedly directed employees to use farm equipment to knock down the corn stalks, crush the cobs and leave the corn in the field, “all activities outside of normal agricultural practices.”
In one instance, Obendorf directed an unnamed individual, referred to as J.K., to use a tractor “to knock down rows of corn in the duck field at night, so no one would observe him.” Obendorf also instructed J.K. to knock down corn stalks every two weeks during hunting season.
Within days of manipulating the field, Obendorf directed that it be flooded. He or others would then hunt ducks drawn there.
Obendorf pleaded not guilty at his March 1 arraignment in federal court in Boise. He faces two misdemeanor counts: conspiracy to place bait for migratory game birds and placing bait for migratory game birds. Each count is punishable by up to one year in prison and/or a $15,000 fine.
“Greg never killed any waterfowl on the field where he is charged with baiting,” Fischer said.
A trial is set for May 9 before U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill.