Survey: The Great Deer Bait Debate

February 27, 2018 | by National Deer Alliance

Of the more than 1,200 people who responded to the National Deer Alliance’s (NDA) weekly survey, more than half indicated that they either have, or currently hunt deer while using bait. When asked what the top two reasons for using bait were, “It draws deer to my hunting location (68%),” and, “It often provides for an easier, or more ethical shot (39%),” came out on top. As one respondent put it, “I think that it gives you more of a chance to determine the quality of the deer you can shoot. If doe hunting making sure it’s a mature deer and not a spike buck. When buck hunting it’s not a snap decision and ending up with ground shrinkage. “In the comments, many mentioned the type of bait they preferred with corn, sugar beets, and apples being favorites. Many also mentioned that they believe hunting over a food plot is essentially the same as baiting.  About one in every five hunters responded that they would rarely see a deer in the areas they hunt without using bait.

For those who do not hunt over bait, the top reason, coming in at 68%, was “It is illegal in my state.” Some feel that baiting gives deer an unfair advantage (29%), and others believe it is simply unethical (37%). One person said, “I believe hunting over bait is not sporting. Hunting over a natural food source is.” Another had a much stronger opinion, stating “It is illegal in my state and I'm fine with that. I usually don't question the methods of other hunters, but baiting is where I draw the line. What does it say about the hunter who has to use bait to get a shot?” A smaller group (21%) said they believe bait sites congregate deer, which could lead to the spread of disease. As one hunter put it, “With CWD in the picture, bringing deer together to feed is a serious problem.”

When those who hunt over bait were asked, “If you have or continue to hunt deer over bait, would you stop hunting if your ability to do so was taken away,” 43% said that they would not. About 21% said that they would stop hunting, or were unsure if they would. “I’d still enjoy hunting, my odds would just go down even further. I try and spread the bait around so they aren’t eating the same food as another deer was, to try and help prevent the spread of disease,” said one respondent.

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