September 23, 2023

Wisconsin Faces Problems With Illegal Activities Surrounding Deer Baiting/Feeding

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The problems that are beginning to surface in Wisconsin, are mostly indirectly related to the baiting and feeding of deer. There are no laws banning the feeding or baiting of deer in Wisconsin except during the deer gun season when hunters are restricted to using two gallons or less of bait food.

Randy Stark is the state conservation warden chief and he has just submitted his end of the year assessment of this year’s deer hunt – 43 pages total if you count the separate report he filed just concerning issues of deer feeding and baiting.

Stark says there are four ingredients needed to continue having a deer hunting season in Wisconsin and the problems arising from baiting are going to cut into those four things.

“We need four things to have a future in deer hunting: a healthy deer herd, hunters, access to a place to hunt and a public that accepts hunting,” Stark said.

He also believes now is the time to get the conversation going to work to address some of the problems. He gives some reasons why he thinks now is as good a time as any.

# Researchers recently confirmed that chronic wasting disease can be transferred by saliva.

# Repeated placement of corn, apples and other foods can concentrate deer on private property and reduce normal daylight deer movement.

# Feed outside cabins and residences creates vulnerability for opportunistic poaching at night, with trophy bucks often the targets.

# Conflicts between adjacent landowners and hunters on public lands spawn unethical and sometimes illegal conduct.

22% of all citations issued were the result of issues dealing with deer baiting. Here is a look at some of them.

Some wardens told Stark that the $530 fine for illegal baiting and feeding didn’t seem to faze those who were caught, and they recommended higher fines and a mandatory license suspension of at least one year.

Numerous complaints of illegally-cut shooting lanes, ATV use and permanent tree stands on state land were made. Stark said bait piles are involved in most of those instances.

Also as a result of baiting activity, wardens reported significantly more late shots heard as people stayed in stands after shooting hours closed waiting for deer to come to their corn pile.

One landowner with several excessive baits was contacted by Lincoln County warden Fred Peters. The hunter expressed annoyance with the DNR for their ability to count deer.

“I pointed out the deer sign in and around the bait stations and explained that he had several fat and happy deer that would gladly wait until after dark to eat the corn,” Peters said.

Many ATV users are dumping excessive baits before the opener and hoping that the baits will be eaten down to the legal limit of two gallons or less by the opener, he said.

This is the type of hunter that allowing the practice of baiting is creating. Instead of becoming a knowledgeable hunter and learning how to read the signs, do some scouting, use some strategy and change methods of hunting, it’s much easier to dump a pile of food and wait for the biggest deer to come along and eat.

When hunters are allowed to run ram shod through the woods dumping bait here and there, it has become clear that the ethics in hunting are disappearing and being replaced by law breaking and disrespect for the sport and the land and landowners. I agree with Stark. It’s time for some changes.

Tom Remington