• 64°

A look at the deer baiting issue

By Staff
Feb. 2, 2001
Picture this. You are waiting in your deer stand, overlooking an acre-size opening in the woods. In the center of the opening is an automatic feeder filled with shelled corn. At precisely 4:30 the battery operated timer activates the feeder's distributor plate and it noisily spins out the yellow grain, raining it down in a worn circle on the ground.
Nearby deer hear the noise and trot happily to the feeder for their regular meal. One of the does is in estrus and a trophy buck follows her to the corn, foregoing his usual caution that would have had him coming to the bait station only after dark.
You take advantage of your good fortune and shoot the buck, bagging the best trophy deer of your life.
Question. Is this the way you want to take the buck of your dreams? Question. Will you be as proud of this buck as you would have if you had patterned his movements and stalked him or waited near his bed and caught him working a scrape? Question. Will you remember to tell your friends the part of the story about the doe coming to the sound of a feeder?
Question. Do we want to cheapen this wonderful sport in our own eyes and threaten it by giving the anti-hunting crowd ammunition to further their crusade to end it?
My answer is a resounding no. I care too much for this elusive creature and the rich hunting history it has brought to our land and our memories.
I'll always remember the letdown feeling I had when I moved to Texas and encountered hunting leases with automatic feeders and feed troughs within sight of deer stands. I luckily found a few hunting clubs that did not bait deer, so I was able to avoid diluting my hunting experiences in several locations there.
Why bait?
The big Texas 10-pointer whose antlers hang on my wall was not sauntering in to a feed box, but instead was flying at breakneck speed through an oak thicket, fleeing into the darkest cover from the sound of a nearby gunshot. I can tell the story with no apologies.
My plea in Texas was, "Why do you bait deer? They are as plentiful as rocks and one only has to wait on stand a little while to see all the deer you want. Why bait?" I never got a good answer.
There are many reasons why we shouldn't bait deer with corn. We'll get to them eventually on this page. But one important reason must be mentioned because of my love of wild turkeys. Corn sold for wildlife feeding should be considered contaminated with aflatoxin, a substance found in most shelled corn. This fungal by-product can kill wild turkeys. Corn exposed to warmth and moisture is a fertile media for aflatoxin to grow and multiply to high levels.
Otha Barham is Outdoors Editor of The Meridian Star. E-mail him at olbarham@aol.com.