baiting for deer

Baiting for Deer: Why Many States Have Banned the Practice, and More May Follow

Baiting deer can be an extremely effective way to hunt them. Whether you agree or disagree with any moral objections to the idea, it's no secret that whitetail hunters in several parts of the country take advantage of feed such as corn, beans, apples, peanuts, and more. Some say it's a lazy form of hunting, or it gives hunters too much of an advantage. Others suggest that it's meant more for supplemental nutrition and gaining intel from trail cameras. Regardless of your view on this common practice, some states have moved to ban baiting for whitetail or other deer species.

In fact, 28 states in the U.S. have completely outlawed the baiting of deer. Several of the other 22 states have restrictions on where, when, and how a hunter can bait whitetails. Will we eventually see a countrywide ban on all deer baiting? What ripple effects might that have on a large portion of the outdoor industry?

Main Argument for Banning Deer Baiting: CWD

Deer Baiting

Lately, the biggest issue that arises in state and local governments with baiting whitetails is the concern of the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). As the spread of this highly contagious and extremely fatal disease widens among deer herds, it's no surprise that baiting restrictions are increased. CWD and baiting go hand-in-hand, simply because several deer congregate in one area, thus spreading saliva and fecal matter where feeding is common. Deer are exposed to CWD prions through saliva and feces, which has proven to cause them to become infected.

While there are some unknowns about the rate at which supplemental feeding could increase the spread of CWD, scientists do know that the mortality rate of the disease is nearly 100%. To protect our natural resources, placing a ban on baiting might be the most appropriate measure in an area with confirmed cases. Whether CWD can be transmitted to humans or not is still somewhat unclear. While there aren't any confirmed cases of a human becoming infected with the virus, the Centers for Disease Control recommend hunters err on the side of caution when consuming venison. They also recommend testing harvested deer before consumption, especially in areas where CWD has been confirmed. This has translated into mandatory check stations in certain regions of CWD-positive state, in which deer hunters are required to submit their deer to CWD testing.

A company in Oneida County New York fed venison to 200 of its employees, and later that meat tested positive for CWD. They were unaware of it at the time, and concerns grew when the lab results came back. The Oneida County Health Department decided to launch a surveillance project monitoring those who ate the infected meat. The project lasted six years, during which the scientists monitored 80% of the employees' health conditions. There was little evidence to suggest that the meat had any negative health impacts. This was pretty revolutionary as it was the only human "trial" involving CWD in humans. While it would be hard to confirm health data from one single study, the results gave hunters a sigh of relief.

The rising spread of CWD in the United States is a cause for some concern, and methods and laws to prevent the spread should be considered. This past September, CWD was detected in 30 states, as well as four Canadian provinces, and it's showing signs of even more expansion. The science conducted by state wildlife agencies as well as the CDC shows that there is a correlation between high concentrations of deer through baiting sites and the spread of this highly contagious and fatal disease. Unfortunately, the studies are somewhat inconclusive.

While it's possible that the best way to slow down the spread is through the restriction or complete banning of whitetail baiting, it's hard not to wonder what kind of effect this will have on the outdoor industry as a whole. A nationwide ban would likely crumble certain companies that produce whitetail-specific baits, and could lower hunter participation numbers. We've already seen this in the states that have imposed these restrictions.

Both sides bring credible arguments, but I hope that in the foreseeable future, hunters will experience the great joy that is whitetail hunting without the looming concern of such a terrible virus impacting our herds. And ideally, CWD stops being such a concern too, and we can all go about deer hunting within our region's rules, knowing that it's what's best for the deer, the hunter, and the industry at large.