Deer baiting now legal in Upstate

By John Garner
For The Courier

According to John Garner, although baiting is now legal, the best way to take a trophy buck is through old-school hunting.

According to John Garner, although baiting is now legal, the best way to take a trophy buck is through old-school hunting.

Another deer season is upon us and hunters all over the state are excited about going to the woods for a little recreation and me time!

It’s that time of year when you can become one with your thoughts, enjoy nature at its best, and re-evaluate your life. As with every season, there are always some changes to the rules and regulations, and none bigger than this year where it is now legal to bait for deer in the entire state.

There has always been a controversy about baiting between hunters, biologist, and law enforcement. Some are opposed while others are supportive. Why all the fuss over something that a lot of other states readily approve of? Well, let’s visit the pros and cons of baiting.

A lot of veteran hunters oppose baiting, as they say it takes the “fair chase” factor out of the hunt. I agree with that statement but at the same time I also have no problem with someone putting out some bait if that’s what they choose to do.

Some biologists oppose the baiting because they say it can cause the spread of diseases such as Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). To explain that stance, the biologists say that if you have a pile of corn out and a deer eats it then he will also slobber in the corn as well, so when the next deer comes along and eats from the same pile then that deer will also consume the previous deer’s slobber, which can aid in the spreading of diseases. Makes a lot of sense to me.

On the other side of that coin, a lot of hunters think there is absolutely nothing wrong with baiting as plenty of other states condone it and science really hasn’t proven that baiting is a cause of spreading of disease. A mass majority of hunters also think that baiting is no different than food plots or standing rows of corn, which is true in a host of ways. So the question becomes to bait or not to bait?

Personally I have no problem with anyone who wants to bait and am not for it or against it. I have hunted with several guides over the years who will tell you that putting out extra corn does not have much effect on the success rate of hunters.

One particular friend and guide in Kentucky once told me that he laughs when clients call him just prior to their arrival and ask him to put out “extra corn.” I have hunted over bait many times in various states and can tell you from experience that “extra corn” is overrated! Deer will literally step over a pile of corn to get to some sweet acorns, and I’ve seen them do it!

Over the years I have come to the realization that if you are a meat hunter and want does or small bucks, then corn and other baits can be very productive, but if you are a trophy hunter, the corn and other baits are pretty much a waste of your time. I am not saying that you could not be successful with it, but I am saying that rarely will a trophy animal let his guard down to gorge in a pile of corn. I have seen this many times and know it to be true. If you are after the trophies, then the old-school method of hunting is where you are going to find them — in the deepest, thickest part of the woods in places most people wouldn’t go. That’s where the trophies are. That’s why they are trophies!

Whether you are for or against baiting, it really doesn’t matter at this point because now it is legal and very lawful to do so. It is a tool that can be now be used legally, and if used right, can be very productive. It is each hunter’s own decision whether or not they want to use the method in their hunting bag of tricks, and to each his own. If you do use baiting, then I hope it works for you, and always remember to go for that good, clean, one-shot kill. Happy hunting!