Longtime hunter and outdoor writer Bob Robb recently examined the debate over baiting in a Bowhunting World article, “Big Game Hunters: Are You Pro or Anti Baiting?” In the article, Robb considers several studies on baiting deer and its impact on a deer hunter’s success.

“A 1984 Michigan study showed that baiters harvested 2.4 deer per 100 days hunting, while non-baiters harvested 2.2 deer per 100 days hunting. Yet even though there is no real difference there, it is for certain that hunters believe baiting helps them kill deer. A 1993 Wisconsin study, for example, showed that 92 percent of hunters felt that baiting increased their chance for success — whether they used bait or not.

“That same study showed 50 percent of bait hunters tagged a deer, while 54 percent of hunters who did not use bait filled their tags. The same basic result was found during a 1994 Michigan study, which found that 44 percent of hunters using bait were successful, while 52 percent of hunters who did not bait were successful.”

A 1994 Michigan study found that 44 percent of hunters using bait were successful, while 52 percent of hunters who did not bait were successful Photo: Archive

Meanwhile in Georgia, where baiting for deer is legal in southern regions of the state and illegal in northern regions, the debate is heating up.  In a recently published open letter, former  Georgia wildlife officials spoke out against an executive order to expand baiting. This opposition to deer baiting bubbled up shortly after it was reported that Georgia’s acting state wildlife officials were absent from a state legislative session where lawmakers discussed the issue and were unable to bring the discussion to a vote.

In the letter Mike Worley of the Georgia Wildlife Federation, along with a group including four retired Georgia Department of Natural Resources leaders, claim expansion goes against recommended wildlife practices, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

“It seems odd that immediately following a session where the Legislature could not/would not deal with the issue, and when engagement from the Department’s wildlife professionals was conspicuously absent, you are faced with a very unusual attempt through an executive order to impose expanded baiting,” they wrote.

Georgia’s governor Nathan Deal, who signed the executive order in April, cited the importance of equality across all Georgia hunting regions. In the order, Deal also challenged evidence that suggest baiting is bad for deer and deer hunting. “Since 2011, the Department of Natural Resources has found no evidence that hunting over feed has directly impacted deer harvest numbers, nor has the department observed any direct evidence of disease linked to supplemental feeding in Georgia.”

The group opposed to the baiting expansion disagrees, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. They cite studies that show a decrease in deer harvests and a reduction in hunting efficiency because deer in areas that allow baiting become more nocturnal.

The wildlife leaders behind the letter also say high amounts of corn can be harmful to deer, that aggressive baiting could lead to the spread of more feral hogs and other nuisance animals, and that the practice could lead to more deer collisions with cars if spread to more densely populated areas.

opposition to baiting deer

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal says there is no direct evidence of disease linked to supplemental feeding in Georgia. Former wildlife officials in the state may soon have reason to dispute this claim. Photo: The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources dispatched this 3 1/2-year-old buck after it was ravaged by chronic wasting disease in September 2012.

In fact, after the April 9 executive order was written, new research was published and released on May 2 by the University of Wisconsin confirming that Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been found to spread in areas where deer and other wildlife congregate. CWD is the single greatest threat to U.S. deer populations today. Animals infected with CWD have been identified in 24 U.S. states and three Canadian provinces.

According to a Whitetail Journal article written earlier this month:

Before these recent findings, there was no clear understanding of how CWD prions could and could not be transmitted by the environment. There was always the question of when an infected area was free of the disease. For instance, an area may harbor deer infected by CWD, yet the area would remain infected for years after the infected animals were removed.”

Currently, CWD has not been found in deer herds in Georgia, but the state wildlife agency’s website cites prohibiting baiting of deer as a line of defense against disease:

“Our first line of defense is to halt importation of all deer species. In Georgia, it is illegal to import any member of the deer family. Next, continue to prohibit canned hunting operations. Also, continue to prohibit baiting of deer for hunting, which facilitates the transmission of wildlife disease agents by concentrating sick deer with healthy deer. Discourage management practices that result in high concentrations of deer over small areas. Examples include supplemental feeding, baiting of deer, and lack of adequate doe harvest.”

For more survey information on baiting, go here. For more information on spread of CWD, go here.

Featured Photo: John Hafner