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Baiting for Deer



Feeders are great for analyzing bucks

With the law changing in South Carolina that now allows baiting for deer in all game zones there has been a lot of conversation about the ethics, and sporting of baiting for deer. This is a debate that has raged for decades across all of the whitetail deer range.

Currently (based on the information I could obtain) out of our 50 states there are 22 states that allow baiting of deer for hunting purposes in either the whole state or in selected parts of the state. The remaining 28 do not allow it at all. In the 22 states that allow baiting of deer for hunting, 14 of them allow it state wide, the remaining 8 allow it only in limited areas. Most of the states that allow it in limited areas; these areas are restricted to private lands. Such is the case in the new South Carolina law. Baiting for deer is legal state wide on private lands only.

We cannot attempt to address the ethics of hunting over bait, however for this conversation I will define bait as food placed by humans in a concentrated area for the purpose of concentrating deer to a specific location for the sole purpose of killing deer over the food source. – I know there are other types of bait, salt, minerals, etc. But for now we will stick with the number one food source – corn.

For years I have hunted land where baiting was legal. And admittedly, I have an automatic feeder on one of these properties for the sole purpose of hunting over. I justify this by no means what so ever. Its legal and I choose to do it on a limited basis. Of the eighteen stands we have on this piece of property one has bait. While we all hunt it some, the purpose of this stand is for our kids. We are introducing our children to hunting, and we believe that to keep kids interested they need to see deer. This feeder allows for this. We seldom sit at this stand and not see some deer – mostly does and a few small bucks.

Each hunter must choose for themselves if this is a practice they want to engage in for themselves. I must admit I do not believe it promotes good hunting skill, on the contrary, it makes lazy hunters and diminishes the skill needed to hunt well. But again, this works for us.

We also use the feeder to gather herd surveys. During July and August of every year we will place five large corn piles with cameras to survey the property of available deer. (More on this in a future story) but mostly, we only feed this one location.

The one problem I have found with baiting is this – if you choose not to bait, and your adjoining land owners are baiting you are running up hill against the wind. Late season when all natural food is gone (Acorns, plots, persimmons etc.) the deer will almost completely go to the bait piles to feed. I witnessed this for over six seasons. After about mid-November when winter food was at its lowest, we seldom saw deer. Game camera pictures verified they were migrating during the night to the neighbor’s property to feed. We discussed this with the neighbor who was adamant they would continue to dump large corn piles late season to attract deer. In our case it was either participate of quit hunting late season.

While there are a lot of ways to bait for deer, the one sure thing to know is that the food needs to be there all of the time. For us, being absent land owners, the timed feeder works best. We use a solar panel battery charger to keep it going. Feeding twice a day 30 minutes after sunrise and an hour before sunset, the feeder runs for three seconds and displaces about a pound to a pound and a half of corn per cycle. This allows the feeder to continue for about four to six weeks before needing refilling.

Trophy bucks seldom come to bait during the day light

Our unscientific studies show it takes deer about three to five days to find a new bait pile. Dumping corn out in the morning and hunting it that evening is largely a waste of time. If I am going to hunt over bait, I will take the time to go the weekend before and make a bait pile and hunt it the following weekend. This gives deer time to find it and time for them to feel comfortable coming to it. But be warned, 100% of the photos I have of quality bucks coming to corn are between the hours of 12:00 midnight and 4:00 a.m. In the seven years we have used bait, not any of the quality bucks killed have been killed over bait.

Using bait allows hunters to see more deer, and allows them to harvest does. They make great bow stands when hunting does. But if you are after mature bucks, skip the bait and sharpen your hunting skills.

Again, each hunter has to decide for themselves if baiting is something they want to participate in, however personally I come down here; if its legal, and it brings more people into enjoying our hunting lifestyle then I’m all for it. It may not be for me, and it may not be for you. Similarly, my personal opinion is that inline muzzle loaders should not be allowed during primitive weapon seasons, there is nothing primitive about them, however, if the use of these weapons brings more people into the sport, then I am all for it.

As hunters, we need to do all we can to promote our sport, and while statistics show that 73% of Americans support the right to hunt, only 27% support the use of bait. We need to keep a low profile, obey the laws and keep promoting our great sport.