Automatic Feeders Prohibited for Feeding or Baiting Deer

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Deer hunters who hunt over bait and people who just enjoy feeding deer may not use automatic feeders to feed or bait white-tailed deer in Wisconsin, according to state wildlife officials who have been receiving inquires about the devices as deer hunting seasons approach.

The use of automatic feeders is prohibited in Wisconsin under emergency and permanent rules put in place to help control the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in deer, according to Kurt Thiede, a regulations specialist with the Department of Natural Resources wildlife management program.

“These devices have never been legal for deer hunting in Wisconsin, because the law has always prohibited placing bait in plastic, metal, glass or wood containers.” Thiede said, “But prior to the discovery of CWD in Wisconsin, there were no laws that prohibited these types of feeders for recreational viewing and supplemental feeding that was not tied to hunting.”

However, in April 2003, Wisconsin Act 240 was enacted, extending the DNR’s authority to regulate wildlife feeding for non-hunting purposes. After 2003 Wisconsin Act 240 was signed, the state Natural Resources Board approved emergency rules which will remain in effect until February 2005, when a permanent rule is put in place.

Thiede said the automatic devices are prohibited for a number of reasons.

“Since people who feed deer may now only place 2 gallons per feeding site, and because many of these devices hold more than 2 gallons, placement of more then 2 gallons inside these devises would be illegal,” he said. “The feed inside the feeder is still considered feed as it still serves to attract deer and would be included in determining the amount of feed present at the site. In addition, it would be difficult if not impossible to control how much feed is on the ground at any one time. Some feeders may go off every hour, another may go off once a day and others may dispense feed by the actions of the deer or other animals. If the deer don't eat all of the corn and it goes off again, there could be more than 2 gallons on the ground.”

Baiting and feeding deer is currently banned in 26 southern Wisconsin counties: Adams, Calumet, Columbia, Crawford, Dane, Dodge, Grant, Green, Iowa, Jefferson, Juneau, Kenosha, Lafayette, Manitowoc, Marquette, Milwaukee, Portage, Racine, Richland, Rock, Sauk, Sheboygan, Vernon, Walworth, Waukesha and Waushara.

People outside of the 26 counties where baiting and feeding is banned may place up to 2 gallons of bait for deer for each parcel of land up to 40 acres in size or each 40 acre section of land if the bait is at least 100 yards from other hunter’s bait sites or from a roadway with a speed limit of 45 mph or more.

Placing bait for deer is only allowed during the open season for hunting deer and the day before the season opens. Wildlife viewers and home owners may place up to 2 gallons of feed to attract deer for recreational viewing purposes at any time of the year, but the feed must be within 50 yards of an occupied dwelling or business open to the public, the feed may only be placed when the dwelling or business is being used for human occupancy, and the feed is more than 100 yards from any highway with a posted speed limit of 45 miles per hour or more. Placement of feed simply for supplemental feeding and when the building is vacant (such as a cabin used only in the summer or on weekends) is not allowed. Additional general rules that apply to the use of bait or feed for hunting or nonhunting purposes may be found on the DNR Web site.

“The ban on automatic feeders is important to out efforts to control CWD in Wisconsin and we are relying on the support and cooperation of hunters and landowners to help our efforts to stop the spread of this always fatal brain disease and protect our state’s white-tail deer herd,” Thiede said.

For additional information on baiting and feeding, including regulations, frequently asked questions and an online slide show are on the DNR Web site.