February 7, 2023

Georgia Debates Deer Baiting Issues

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Georgia State Representative Jay Roberts (R) Ocilla, has introduced a bill (House Bill 1285) that would essentially divide the state in half. One half of the state would totally legalize baiting and shooting deer over bait, while the other half would remain the same – the same being that hunters are allowed to grow food plots and shoot deer feeding in them. They are also allowed to set up feeding stations but have to be at least 200 yards away to shoot.

This debate over baiting, food plots and hunting over bait, has raged for years. Hunters are definately split over the issue and there doesn’t seem to be much middle ground or concessions being made from either side of the debate.

Many hunters believe strongly in the “fair chase” ethics. Others simply want to kill their game any way that it is legal. Within these two groups are varying opinions of what fair chase is and what should be deemed legal.

The pure fair chase hunter believes that a hunter should pursue his game on as even a plane as possible – hunting the deer one of one on the deer’s turf. This kind of hunter is very much opposed to any kind of luring of deer to a spot to be killed.

Think of hunting as being a continuum. On the right you have the purest hunter believing in the extreme of fair chase. On the left, the hunter who believes that the bottom line is to kill their prey the easiest way possible, not necessarily within the law.

On this continuum, hunters take up their position based on what they think should and shouldn’t be allowed in pursuit of their game. On the two ends of the spectrum you have strong and differing opinions. Somewhere in the middle you will find that hunters believe instituting some forms of baiting or luring is acceptable.

One of the reasons baiting practices were instituted was a way to control deer populations. With a rapidly growing deer count in some states or in some areas of that state, combined with not enough hunters to reduce numbers, the idea of baiting to make it easier was put into place. As the practice of baiting and growing food plots has become more widespread in some areas, so has the debate from both sides.

The bill proposed in Georgia would allow private landowners to feed deer similar to how farmers feed their own livestock. The bill would also allow the shooting of the deer at the feeding stations. Proponents of the bill say this is really no different than what is allowed now and is necessary to control growing deer populations that raise havoc with crops and present vehicle-deer accidents. Opponents say this form of hunting isn’t hunting at all. It is merely slaughter and we would be teaching our children to kill, not how to hunt. Some believe that by feeding the deer in this way, will in effect add to the growing population of deer.
Whether this bill passes or not, the bebate will rage on. In states where deer population growth is a problem, game management departments are left with finding creative ways of controling and managing the herds. Not all hunters think that baiting and shooting deer over bait is the ethical way to do it.

The bill is opposed by the Wildlife Resources Division of the state Department of Natural Resources, whose deer management plan calls for keeping the law unchanged while studying the effect of current deer feeding practices.
Tom Remington