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Since the news broke this past weekend that a 2008 rewrite of South Carolina’s law against baiting for deer in the upstate mistakenly omitted a line – thus creating what appears to be a loophole of sorts – deer hunters across the area have been in a frenzy.
Many hunters have rushed out to buy bags and bags of corn in hopes of baiting their hunting areas and drawing deer in for an easy kill.
What they don’t understand is that, despite how the article written by a writer for The State newspaper and carried by most news outlets in the area reads, the action is no more legal now than it was before the omission was noticed.
Baiting for deer anywhere within game zones one and two (ours) remains an illegal activity, according to representatives from our state’s Department of Natural Resources in Columbia.
The only thing that has changed due to the mistake that occurred during the printing process was the way in which those found baiting will be prosecuted. To put that in plain English, if caught baiting for deer, you will be brought up on charges.
That clear enough for you?
For the life of me, I can’t understand why so many are infatuated with the idea of baiting.
Baiting is a double- edged sword. I do see where those of us in the Upstate who have been “on the outside, looking in” might feel that the practice creates an advantage to the hunter but in reality it does not.
This is especially true when hunters bait the Lowcountry way.
First, let’s consider what baiting with corn does to a deer herd.
There is no denying deer love the stuff. These critters will eat it until they’re about to pop.
The problem is that as long as their belly is full, deer won’t eat those things their body needs and the deer can die from starvation despite having a full belly.
Look at it this way. We all know that children love candy. If given a choice, they’d eat it non-stop.
What if you allowed them to eat nothing but that for months on end? Just as in this scenario, corn provides little to no nutritional value and the end result is not pretty.
Texas has allowed baiting for years, and I’ve spent quite a bit of time down there. In that area, the use of corn is quite common but the folks use timed feeders for placing it out. When the timer goes off, the feeder has an attachment that spins and throws the corn out for 10 to 15 seconds.
This accomplishes two things.
First, it regulates how much corn is placed on the ground (very little) and conditions the animals to come into the feeder at those two specific times during daylight hours.
That’s a far cry from how hunters in South Carolina’s Lowcountry go about it.
The other negative effect that baiting can have relates to those two words I just mentioned – “daylight hours.”
You see, deer aren’t stupid. When corn is piled high on the ground, the mature deer know better than to open themselves up to an easy ambush.
You have to keep in mind that hunters are not the only predators out in the woods.
Because of this, the extreme majority of action at openly baited sites tends to happen at night, under the cover of darkness when the animals feel safer about sneaking in to eat.
This means that deer movement in general becomes nocturnal, thus actually lowering your chances of taking a good buck.
Jealousy is just a part of human nature and it’s been rearing its ugly head for generations of deer hunters in the lower part of the state. With baiting legal there, hunters have become part of an all out war against their neighbors and it has become a horrible scene in many areas.
No, I don’t mean they’re actually at war with each other, using their guns and such. Instead, corn bombs are the weapon used. Here’s how the mentality down there tends to be.
When Billy Bob on the farm next door has bigger bait piles than his neighbors, those folks become scared. They mistakenly believe that because of this, they’ll need to “out do” him with the corn or all of the deer are going to be over on his place. So, they buy enough to accomplish that task.
Then old Billy Bob, along with the neighbors on every side, retaliate and begin a chain reaction that results in tons of corn lying all over the place in huge piles.
Anyone who has ever hunted down in those parts has seen it piled high they just didn’t realize what was actually taking place.
The reality of this scenario is that all of this foolishness could have been averted if Billy Bob’s neighbor had had enough sense to understand the deer a bit better.
You see, if that neighbor had a number of lush food plots planted on his place, the deer might still be found next door on Billy Bob’s corn at night but they’d be spending the legal shooting hours over on his land and in his fields.
It’s my hope hunters in these parts are going to be smart enough to not get caught up in all of this baiting hype. As soon as the new session begins in a few months, our legislators will be making sure that the proper wording is re-inserted into the law so as to put a stop to all of the confusion that has taken place.
In the meantime, just know that tossing corn on the ground to deer hunt still comes with consequences that you don’t want to face.
Wood duck boxes
The S.C. Department of Natural Resources, in partnership with the South Carolina State Chapter of Ducks Unlimited and the South Carolina Department of Corrections, will continue the construction and distribution of wood duck boxes this winter.
Applications are available online at http://www.dnr.sc.gov/wildlife/waterfowl/woodduck/ and will be accepted until Oct. 15. Approximately 1,000 boxes will be distributed in January. Ducks Unlimited has contributed approximately 50 percent of the cost for construction and distribution. The Wateree Correctional Institute will assemble the predator shields and construct the boxes. Each unit will consist of a treated pole, a predator shield and assembled box.
The wood duck is the most important waterfowl species in S.C. and is the only duck that breeding habitat can be managed effectively throughout all regions in the state. This project supplements natural production in tree cavities of forested wetlands by providing artificial nesting sites. Fewer natural cavities are available today because of the effects of human activity upon bottomland hardwoods.
Private land owners wishing to obtain wood duck boxes can download an application at the web site. Contact DNR waterfowl biologist Dean Harrigal for information on the Statewide Wood Duck Box Project at 843-844-8957. Up to five boxes per applicant will be available for distribution throughout the state. Since this statewide project began in 1982, more than 32,000 nest box units have been issued.
Brad Harvey is a freelance writer in Clover. Visit his website at bradharveyoutdoors.com or follow on Twitter- @BHarveyOutdoors