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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Will General Assembly Allow Study of "Bait Hunting" for Deer

The Washington Post had this article on Monday about the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors backing legislation that would ask the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) to study the use of "bait" to hunt deer:
As Loudoun County grapples with a problematic population of white-tailed deer, the county’s Board of Supervisors recently signaled that it would support a legislative study of bait hunting, a controversial practice involving the use of bait to make deer easier targets for hunters.

The use of bait to attract deer is outlawed in Virginia. Bait-hunting supporters say that the method offers a more effective means to cull a herd. Opponents say that gathering deer in a concentrated area promotes the spread of disease, alters natural migration movements and might cause other health and environmental problems for the animals and their habitat.
In Virginia, people who use mineral blocks and wildlife feeders must discontinue the use of both on or before September 1 each year and may not reintroduce them to the property until after the deer season has ended.  It is legal however to continue "agronomic plantings" (including wildlife food plots).  All those bags of deer corn and various attractants like "Acorn Crush" "C'Mere Deer" etc. that you see in Gander Mountain, Bass Pro, or Walmart during deer season are not legal to use here.  You could however buy a bag or two and go across the border to North Carolina and use them.

I use minerals and a corn feeder during the spring and summer on the property I hunt to supplement the natural food source.  I believe it is beneficial to the does that are nursing fawns during this time.  It also gives me photos of what the herd is like in the area I hunt.  Last year I had very few pictures of fawns in the area and also had photos of a coyote which told me there was likely the chance I had a predator problem.  The owner of the property killed the canine critter this spring and my camera noted an uptick in the fawn population over the summer and into the fall.

It's obvious Virginians don't need "bait" to kill deer.  Last year Virginia hunters killed 242,734 deer.  We also know, thanks to the Post article, that Loudoun had 360 deer-related car crashes last year - the highest number of all jurisdictions in Virginia, and the county also has the highest rate of Lyme disease infection in Virginia.  Should "baiting" be a local option so localities like Loudoun and Fairfax have the option of allowing hunting deer with "bait" to better control the herd?  It would be interesting to see if those states that allow the use of food attractants have documented an increase in disease as DGIF claims would be the case if the practice was allowed in Virginia.  That will only happen with a study.  And because of that, The Virginia General Assembly should authorize DGIF to conduct a thorough study of the issue so that sound science can back up their regulations.

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