Baiting, where is it taking us?
Dear Woods-N-Water News:
I am an avid reader of Woods-N-Water News and, as most of your readers; I am an avid hunter especially for Michigan's prized attraction, the Whitetail deer. I have hunted deer for forty-three years now and credit the introduction and all my success in deer hunting to my father who has hunted deer for over sixty years and still counting. I have seen many changes in the laws and methods of hunting the Michigan Whitetail. As with most hunters, some of those changes I agree with and some I do not.
I have hunted in both peninsulas and enjoyed the challenges each has to offer. I have seen the traditional red plaid wool succumb to the required hunter orange and the great migration to the camps of the great north woods be reduced to preferred hunting on leased nutrition rich southern Michigan farm lands of the Lower Peninsula. We have expanded our time in the woods with the addition of new seasons designed around new tools of the trade and techniques. Our bow season has grown from a sparse few who hunted with simple tools from October through December, with time off during the traditional two-week firearm season. Our herd now must endure firearms for nearly eight weeks if you add up all the special seasons that have now been introduced.
Deer hunting has evolved from a way of life to sustain sustenance to and industry, an industry that has provided many methods and tools to increase the chances of the human predator to win in the so-called fair chase of prey. I read two articles in recent issues of Woods-N-Water News that dealt with the Michigan baiting issue. The first article was written by Betty Sodders in the October 2010 printing. Her article, "To bait or not to bait? That is the question" addressed many questions, thoughts, and facts about the baiting issue in Michigan. The second was an article written in the December issue of Woods-N-Water News titled "Baiting Laws Ignored" written by an unknown author simply addressed as "An Illegal Michigan Bait Hunter." Both articles I found interesting and, to some extent, informative.
Baiting deer in Michigan has been allowed to develop into a big business since it was legalized years ago. Though illegal in southern Michigan, many businesses still advertise and sell deer bait. Probably providing the service to our U.P. hunters passing through. I did notice one proprietor who advertised their merchandise as goat bait. What ever works for them and their customers. I have mixed feelings over the practice but dabbled with the technique when it became legalized. I found it not to fit my style of hunting and with it, had very little success. I got tired of putting out bait in the afternoon only to return to an empty pile in the morning after the deer and other critters devoured it during their nocturnal feeding the night before. I also felt, like so many other hunters that I have talked to, that if I did not have a bait pile, the deer would go to someone else's bait and I would go hungry. In the lower part of the state, it was even less effective. I never shot a deer, mature or otherwise, over a bait pile. In the Upper Peninsula the practice has become more depended upon with the thinning herd there. I believe its continued legal practice along with other factors has had a dramatic affect on the U.P. herd.
The author claiming to be an illegal bait hunter stated that "hunters do not feel that their baiting, even though illegal, is a very egregious act and this is very important when deciding to go against the law." The hunter later states, "That some hunters have the attitude that if they are going to be illegal that they aren't even going to buy a license."
Nits grow into lice. I certainly hope none of our young hunters read this and get the wrong idea although I feel our author is sending us a message.
An incident I experienced this past fall left me with a serious concern about our own Conservation Law Enforcement. While grouse hunting in the northern Lower Peninsula in mid-October, my brother and I came across two treestands that had large bait piles one of which was only about one hundred yards from a road. I called 911 to report the situation. I was asked to identify myself, which I did, and was told that some one would be contacting me for information. I gave her the area of the incident and said that I could lead the officers to the sites. A close friend of mine from the area told me I should not have given my name because if I did I may receive threats from local hunters who bait. I never got a call back. That was the second time that I reported a game law violation and received no response from the enforcement agency. Maybe those baited stands were from our Illegal Michigan Bait Hunter.
I am not writing this in opposition to a method of hunting but as a concerned Michigan outdoorsman. In Betty Sodders article, she points out the opinions of Michigan baiting laws from hunters from other states. A Nebraska hunter stated, "Here you live in a state where a duck hunter cannot throw out a handful of corn, yet you are allowed to bait for deer. It makes no sense to me.' Another hunter from British Columbia stated, "Here in B.C. we laugh about Michigan hunters baiting for deer. In our estimation, that is not classified as hunting." The point is with all the tools and opportunities we have for deer hunting in Michigan, maybe we need to rethink and restructure.
When I am not hunting, I often enjoy watching The Sportsman and The Outdoor Channels on the television. These programs showcase big game hunting in the United States and other countries.
Most of the deer hunting that is shown takes place in the mid-western states, Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Minnesota, and Kansas. Very rarely is Michigan mentioned. Once they featured a hunt in mid-southern Michigan in which a bowhunter took a very nice eight point buck. During the show, the narrator stated, "taking a mature buck is very hard to do in Michigan."
Michigan, in the past, used to be the Mecca of deer hunting in the midwest. It appears that the legislation concerning our natural resources and deer management is trying to sell licenses to increase revenue and decimate our deer herd rather than improve its quality. Our hunters need to practice good stewardship and, though they may disagree, they still need to obey the laws. Maybe it's time we looked at what is being done in the other midwestern states and stop shooting from the hip. There are tough decisions to be made.
It is my hope that the newly elected administration of our state government is willing to fund and help Michigan deer hunting regain the respect of the hunting community it once had. Michigan is still a great state for hunting and fishing but it can be vastly improved.
Robert L. Scheick
January 05, 2011