Saturday, Nov. 15 marks the opening of the firearm deer season in Michigan, and hunters across the state will once again flock to fields and forests in search of that elusive trophy. The good news is that, for the first time in years, hunters in the Lower Peninsula won’t be heading to their bait piles on opening day.
Last month, Michigan’s Natural Resources Commission voted to make permanent a Lower Peninsula ban – initially imposed in late August of this year – on baiting deer.
Baiting is a practice in which a hunter spends the weeks leading up to opening day placing food near a hunting spot. By the time the season opens, the animals will be well aware of the location of the food pile and will wander into range for an easy kill.
The reasoning behind the Michigan ban is that baiting causes deer to congregate and increases the chance that Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) will be transmitted. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the exact mechanism of CWD transmission is unclear, but researchers believe it is spread through animal-to-animal contact. CWD causes chronic weight loss and death in deer.
The disease has not yet been identified in the Upper Peninsula, but if it is found within 50 miles of the U.P., the Natural Resources Commission has ordered the Department of Natural Resources to ban baiting and feeding in the remainder of the state.
While it wasn’t necessarily intended, perhaps the most notable aspect of the baiting ban in the Lower Peninsula is that it will force southern hunters to actually hunt again. This is an example that northern hunters can learn from, as well.
Baiting goes entirely against the spirit of the chase. It’s challenging for a hunter to take weeks scouring the forest, searching for signs of activity, before deciding on a hunting spot and waiting for hours, or days, for deer to come in. Even after all that, he or she may come home empty-handed at season’s end.
This spring, a bill that would allow baiting in Mississippi passed that state’s legislature, only to be vetoed by Gov. Haley Barbour, who said that “hunting deer with the aid of bait is not consistent with the sportsman’s hunting tradition of fair chase.”
And he’s right, because what sense of accomplishment can a person get from killing a trained animal? There should be some work put into the process. That’s why it’s called “hunting” and not “waddling into the forest to kill an animal that has been trained to sit on your lap.”
The North Wind hopes that when U.P. hunters head into the forests this weekend, they’ll do so ethically — and without the help of bait piles.