Michigan Lifts Deer Baiting Ban

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In a 4-3 vote deer baiting is now allowed in Michigan again, except in the area where bovine tuberculosis is present. Michigan had put a ban on baiting deer since 1998 when a deer with chronic wasting disease was found at a farm in Kent County. By not allowing baiting there would not be a concentrated number of deer eating the piles of food, spreading the disease. The case in Kent County was the last one reported.

No more than 2 gallons of feed is allowed, and also needs to be spread not piled. Feeding deer for recreational viewing is also allowed now year round, except in the areas with bovine TB. Baiting deer with feed is allowed October 1 - January 1. Hunters are split on the feeding of deer. Some think it is unethical and made the deer change their eating habits to night when they are more difficult to hunt. Others say it increases their chances of a successful hunt.

The Natural Resources Commission also voted to revisit the issue in three years or earlier if needed. The ban on deer baiting was hard to enforce.“This is a very controversial and emotional issue,” said John Madigan, a Natural Resources Commission member who voted in favor of lifting the ban. From Detroit Free Press.


groovy mike's picture

Is Chronic Wasting Disease on the decline nationwide?

New York state has also put a ban on baiting and even feeding deer outside the hunting season since chronic wasting disease threatened the deer nationwide.  The theory here was also that it would avoid nose to nose contact between deer eating the piles of food, thus preventing the spread of the disease. This raises the question – is Chronic Wasting Disease on the decline nationwide?  Have these efforts worked?  If so – should we be in any hurry to end what has been so effective?

As far as I know it has always been illegal to hunt over bait including salt licks here in New York State, but it is a tactic employed by poachers so there must be some truth in the effectiveness of doing so (otherwise why would the poachers do it?).  There is the ethical question.  It has never been a legal option for me so I really have not considered it.  I have heard of people saying that it is unethical to hunt set up over a waterhole.  But I don’t know as I believe that it is either.  As you said Arrow-flipper – is it any different than using a natural food source like putting your tree-stand in a bunch of acorn loaded oaks, or at the edge of a corn field?  Both of those options are perfectly legal and as far as I know they are both considered entirely ethical by every hunter I know.  I don’t know as I see much of a distinction.  I completely agree that it is an individual choice that every hunter makes on a personal level and that is true of every tactic that we employ to hunt with.  I know hunters that have no guilt about using a salt lick to bait deer in but think that using a fawn distress call to bring in does is the height of unethical behavior.  We all agree that the ultimate goal is for a quick and humane kill.  We owe that to the animal, after that ‘fair chase’ seems to be largely subjective.  Thanks for sharing the story.  Please keep us up to date as the state of Michigan re-examines the rules in the years to come.

hunter25's picture

Well it's no surprise to me

Well it's no surprise to me that that ban was finally lifted. There were no new cases of cwd and the pressure to allow it again was a pretty hotly debated topic in many areas. The amount of revenue generated by the sale of different baits had to be pretty substantial. I know the law says that the bait must be confined to no more than 2 gallons and spread out but the normal thing when I was a kid up there was more like a pickup load of corn or cabbage. We actually used apples when we could get enough of them, usually in 5 gallon buckets just dumped on the ground.

I have not hunted over bait since I was a kid but have no problem with those who do. After living in Colorado for the better part of my life now I just get too bored to sit there for half the day and prefer to be out stalking around looking for them instead of waiting.

If I ever get back up there to hunt with family I will probably do it again as we only have a couple of 40's to hunt on and all the neighbors will be baitng as well.

Ca_Vermonster's picture

One thing I really like that

One thing I really like that you pointed out AF is the point about all the animals that eat but are never shot. Idon't personally bait deer, but I have used that as a positive point when trying to "defend" those that do to a non-hunter.  I tell them that sure, a deer or two may get shot over dait, but think of the doe and two fawns, or multiple pairs of does and fawns, or the young bucks, that all benefit from the bait.  It could be the difference in surviving the winter.  I think taking a couple animals this way is nullified by the overall benefit.

I think Michigan's stance on baiting deer was out of fear, nothing more.  with the spread of CWD getting so close, especially parts of Wisconsin, they were trying to nip it in the bud, so to speak.

However, other than actually being penned up and eating out of the same piles of food, we have yet to see how it's spread out in the wild.  Heck, one thing I think they should target more are the animal lovers who feed deer in their backyard.  Not only are they opening the door for disease transmission, they are also hurting the deer by making them more tolerable of humans.  That could lead to these deer being preyed upon by hunters.

Michigan is doing the right thing here.  If you agree with baiting, go for it.  If not, don't do it. 

arrowflipper's picture


Baiting for any wild animal is always controversial.  Some think it gives an unfair advantage to hunters while others think it helps keep overpopulation down.  I live in Washington State and they banned baiting of bears quite a few years ago.  We have never had baiting for elk or deer. 

Hunters try to find a natural food source to hunt around.  Animals have to eat and if you can find their food source, you can set up near it and often be successful.  The only difference between a natural or unnatural food source is how the food got there.  Is there an ethical difference between the two?  I really don't know. 

I have been antelope hunting and set up over a waterhole.  In the area we hunted, there was a very limited supply of water.  It was late in the summer and water was scarce and hard to find.  All we needed to do was find the water, build a blind and sit.  Sooner or later, (usually sooner) all the animals in the area came there for a drink.  It was pretty much like "shooting ducks on a pond", so to speak.  Never did or have I heard the animal rights groups speak out against this hunting method.  How different is it than putting feed out to attract the animals.

Another thought would be how many animals get something to eat and are never shot?  My guess is that more animals eat than get shot.  Therefore, you are actually doing more good for the herd than bad.

In states and/or areas where deer populations are running out of hand, baiting is a good way of helping reduce the problem.  My son lives in Maryland and they have a huge deer population.  The deer not only eat people’s plants but they cause untold damage to cars on the roads.  Maryland needs to thin out the herds of deer and their allowing baiting helps that cause.

I guess it comes down to how each hunter feels personally about baiting or setting up over water.  The ultimate goal is for a quick and humane kill.  What better way to get that than having a close, broadside shot.