Wildlife - Deer Information

A Retrospective on Hunting Deer Over Bait in South Carolina - Can Baiting Negatively Affect Hunter Success and Deer Harvest Rates?

Habitat Management Issues

Many hunters suffer from the misconception that baiting is a form of habitat management. It is not and it should not be characterized as an acceptable alternative to traditional habitat management techniques. This is all too evident in the Coastal Plain in years when abundant natural foods like acorns persist during the hunting season. Under these conditions, hunters who depend on bait frequently comment that they are unable to harvest deer because "they aren't coming to the corn" (Figure 5). If this natural food availability is such that baiting is not effective over much of the season, then deer harvest levels may be insufficient to meet harvest management goals.

Figure 5

Figure 5. As natural food availability increases the use of bait by deer decreases, therefore, hunters who depend on harvesting deer using bait will have decreased hunter success.

Many argue that baiting is no different than habitat management techniques such as food plots or agricultural plantings. However in the case of bait, deer can more easily be manipulated with respect to space (location) and time to suit the desires of the hunter. Although traditional techniques have space and time elements as well, the level of manipulation is not comparable to baiting (i.e. once a food plot is planted, its location does not change and it is always available to the deer). Traditional wildlife management activities such as agriculture or food plot establishment create food sources and habitat/cover for many species of wildlife that are available over broader areas and for longer periods of time. Also, since food plots are measured in acres there is much less concern about disease transmission because deer are not forced to repeatedly feed, urinate, and defecate at the exact same spot as they do with a bait "pile".