Brad Harvey: Deer baiting about to be legal in South Carolina

February 9, 2013 

If you haven’t heard, it looks like baiting for deer will soon be legal across all of South Carolina.

After a loophole was discovered this past season that allowed those caught hunting over bait in the Upstate to walk free by claiming that the bait had been placed for hogs, legislators initially planned to rewrite the law to once again ban the practice in Game Zones 1 and 2.

Apparently, this plan changed when they discovered that it would be easier to simply legalize the practice than to get the regulation rewritten as originally intended. Having initially passed through the Senate’s Fish, Game and Forestry subcommittee, the overall Senate has now passed the bill.

Deer baiting has long been an acceptable and legal hunting method throughout the Lowcountry, but it was never allowed up here. Although most hunters have never understood why that was the case, the reasoning was quite simple.

Historically, deer numbers throughout the Coastal Plain have been significantly higher than those found in the Piedmont. Thus, the act of baiting was believed to have no negative effect on overall deer density in the lower part of our state but could have decimated populations here.

The funniest part of this whole story is the difference between the reality of the practice and the general hunting public’s perception of it.

On the surface, placing piles of corn out for deer seems like an incredibly easy way to bag your buck and the extreme majority in the lower part of South Carolina takes part in baiting. Numerous studies, however, show that it’s actually a huge detriment to hunting success.

During a study that took place here in the Palmetto State, it was found that in areas where hunters legally used bait, the total deer harvest was 11.5 deer per square mile. Up here in our part of the world, the deer harvest rate was 15 deer per square mile.

As if that isn’t telling enough, the time spent by hunters to find success was longer as well – 8.57 days of hunting per harvest in the Lowcountry compared to 8.18 days up here.

Many hunters reading that will question how that could possibly be true but the answer is pretty simple. Baiting completely changes deer patterns and conditions them to move mostly during the non-hunting hours of darkness.

During the decade that I spent living on one of our state’s barrier islands, I experienced how baiting affected the hunting overall and I’ll be the first to say that it’s not always a pretty sight.

Often, it goes something like this.

“Billy Bob” puts out a bag of corn. When his buddy “Jimmy John” sees it, he guesses that in order to be successful on his hunt, he’ll need to best his buddy’s efforts. He then places two bags.

Next thing you know, “Lucky Larry” happens across their corn piles and sees what they’re up to. In a flash, he’s got three bags on the ground.

And, the problem grows from there. As hard as it is to imagine seeing it up here, it’s nothing to see a one ton pile of corn down along the coast.

None of that means that I’m totally against baiting. I’m not and have hunted over bait myself in the state of Texas where it’s common practice. The difference lies in that those Texans utilized spin feeders that slung out corn twice a day and only put enough on the ground that could be eaten up within a matter of minutes. This meant that the deer there were conditioned to eating it right then and couldn’t get to it at night because there wasn’t going to be anything left.

Once this bill runs its course and officially becomes law, it’s going to be interesting to see how this all plays out over the course of the next few hunting seasons. Will we love it or, ultimately, hate it?

Only time will tell.

Have a blast

If you’ve never been to one of the National Wild Turkey Federation’s National Conventions, this is definitely the year to make the trek to Nashville, Tenn.

The 2013 version of the NWTF National Convention and Sport Show, to be held Feb. 14- 17, will be an especially good one as the organization celebrates its 40th anniversary at what has become their second home – the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville, Tenn.

With free admission to NWTF members, active and retired military personnel, attendees will take in aisle after aisle of the latest offerings from most manufacturers in the hunting industry, attend seminars by the foremost authorities on turkey hunting and even get the chance to meet some of your favorite hunting celebrities, including Michael Waddell, Brenda Valentine and members of the cast from the popular television show “Swamp People.”

As always, the annual Grand National Calling Championships will be held in conjunction with the show.

Because the event takes place in Nashville, you know there has to be a country music twist. Highlighting the list of performers at some of the events taking place are Craig Morgan and Sawyer Brown.

“We’ve put together an outstanding schedule of events befitting the NWTF’s 40th anniversary,” stated NWTF CEO George Thornton in a press release. “This will be an unforgettable weekend that you won’t want to miss.”

Not an NWTF member?

No problem.

Nonmembers can attend the show floor and seminars for a cost of $20 but if you’re going to do that, why not just go ahead and join one of the greatest conservation organizations out there?

Annual dues are just $35 and a membership can be obtained upon arrival.

Come on up. I’ll see ya there!

Brad Harvey is a freelance writer in Clover. Visit his website at bradharveyoutdoors.com or follow on Twitter @BHarveyOutdoors.

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