Georgia Legislature Considers Deer Baiting Law

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Tennessee wildlife law enforcement officers, such as Russell Vandergriff from Marion County, spend a great deal of time and effort in the Fall seeking out illegal bait stations and citing hunters. (Contributed Photo)

The Georgia Legislature is considering a law that would legalize deer baiting for hunters in North Georgia. Deer hunters in South Georgia have been allowed to use bait stations for deer hunting for several years, but the practice remains illegal in North Georgia. Baiting is when hunters (or anyone else) pours corn or other grain on the ground, or in specially manufactured bait stations, to attract deer to a certain location. In the fall area outdoor retailers routinely stock massive quantities of corn for sale.

The Georgia Senate has already approved the measure to allow the practice in North Georgia. However the Georgia House of Representatives must take corresponding action on House Bill 923 before the measure is approved. At this time it is not clear when, or if, the House will take action on the bill.

Numerous manufacturers make and sell a wide variety of mechanized bait stations or feeders. Many of them distribute grain at specifically-timed intervals. The expectation is that deer or other wildlife in the area will learn what time food will be available, encouraging them to visit the area in daylight hours rather than the middle of the night. (Photo Contributed)

The Georgia Dept. of Natural Resources makes it clear that it is legislators, not their biologists who have chosen to allow the practice. On the web page they say, “This activity is regulated by state law not DNR regulation. The changes in the state’s baiting law were a legislative decision made by the Georgia General Assembly and not a DNR decision.”

They also write, “There have been no measurable changes to deer harvest or deer populations, positive or negative, in South Georgia that can be directly attributed to the use of bait.”

The discussion has renewed debate on the baiting issue for Chattanooga-area hunters. In Tennessee baiting with grain (corn, wheat, etc.) is totally illegal. However at least 21 other states across the country allow hunters to bait for deer in some form or fashion. In those states the practice is accepted and in some cases, even expected. However numerous hunters are totally opposed to baiting. We sought out opinions of Facebook users on the issue and received dozens of responses.

Justin Medley writes, “I hunt in Kentucky [where baiting is allowed] and Tennessee and as a Tennessee resident, I would vote NO! With [Chronic Wasting Disease] knocking on our door it would be a huge mistake to allow baiting in my opinion.”

Don Snow, from Bledsoe County agrees, “I say NO. I taught hunter safety for a long time, I usually taught hunter ethics. We stressed respect. Nothing respectful or ethical about shooting over bait.”

However not everyone agrees.

“Legalize,” writes Nick Pezzello. “It’s not any different than hunting a good plot; it’s a concentrated, man-made food source.”

Keith Garner writes, “I can kill plenty without the use of bait and so can most of the people I know who routinely hunt over bait in North Carolina. All bait is is another tool to be successful. If you disagree, that’s fine, but most who do, have never done it.”

Most biologists argue that baiting wildlife to specific area, whether it’s for hunting or just for viewing, increases the potential to spread diseases among the population. (Photo Contributed)

Tennessee deer biologists are generally greatly opposed to ever allowing the use of bait for deer hunting. Their primary reason is due to the potential for spreading disease, including Chronic Wasting Disease. They say concentrating many deer in a specific, small location such as a bait station increases the likelihood of spreading disease.

Daryl Ratajczak, a former TWRA biologist writes, “Too much science demonstrates baiting and supplemental feeding’s negative impacts to wildlife, while little to no science demonstrates a benefit. The hunting industry’s marketing teams have pulled the wool over the masses eyes because of their eagerness to find a shortcut. It’s the equivalent of late night television’s magic diet pill infomercials.”

However in Tennessee baiting for the purpose of simply viewing deer or other wildlife, and not hunting near it, is perfectly legal. Many landowners have bait stations out their back door just so they can more easily view wildlife.

Eric Leonard writes, “It should be against the law to feed deer whether you are gonna hunt over it or not. A pile of corn behind someone’s house in suburbia would spread CWD just as fast as a pile of corn in the woods somewhere.”

Matt Choate believes the CWD/disease issue is often used under false pretenses. Choate writes, “If baiting wildlife was detrimental to wildlife, especially deer, there wouldn’t be a deer alive in Texas (where baiting is commonplace). But hey…let’s pretend to be a reputable biologist and wildlife agency and use the CWD scam/scare to manipulate public opinion to support our biased views.”

In this case wildlife officers found where a hunter had spread apples on the ground all around his hunting blind. While hunters are allowed to place salt licks or mineral blocks, it is illegal to place any kind of grain or food out to attract deer or turkeys to your hunting area. (Contributed Photo)

It is highly unlikely Tennessee hunters will ever see baiting allowed, unless legislators do an end-run around wildlife biologists and legalize the measure – a scenario that has happened in other situations, albeit rare.

Whether North Georgia hunters will see the measure pass remains to be seen. According to Daryl Kirby with Georgia Outdoor News, it is looking unlikely. Kirby writes, “There is opposition among key politicians, including some members of the House Game, Fish and Parks Committee, which didn’t allow a House version of SB 450 to move forward to a full vote by all members of the House.”

Time will tell and regardless, hunters will likely debate the issue forever.

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