Alabama: New Bill Would Expand Baiting for Deer

alberta sheldon synchro feed bucksThe Montgomery Adviser reports that a bill working its way through the Alabama legislature would allow hunters more options for using bait to lure deer and hogs. It passed the house Tuesday and heads to the state senate for consideration.

The new bill would not only expand baiting in Alabama, but also clear up confusion due to a law that went into effect just last hunting season. That current law allows hunters to use “supplemental feed” if the feed source is at least 100 yards away from the hunter and out of his or her direct line of sight.

That law caused confusion among hunters and, I suspect, game wardens last season. Just what does “out of sight” mean?  Suppose a corn pile is 101 yards away from a tree—if you sat on the ground you could not see it, but if you were up in a ladder stand you could conceivably glass the bait.

The new bill would do away with the distance and view requirement to the bait, so you could set it right out front your stand. But the bait would have to be in a container, like a corn feeder. Apparently it could not be poured out on the ground near a stand.

But the Alabama legislature seems intent on keeping any final baiting bill they come up with confusing. As of now, the new bill being considered would be a supplement to the current baiting law; it would not replace it. If a hunter wants to abide by the current requirements that bait must be 100 yards away and out of line of sight, he could still hunt that way and not be required to pay an additional fee.

If the new bill is enacted into law as written, and if a hunter wants to put a corn feeder out front of his stand, he’d have to purchase an annual $15 baiting license in addition to the regular deer hunting license. Of the $15, $1 would be an administrative fee and $14 would be returned to the state conservation department. Estimates have the bait bill raising an additional $1.2 to $1.5 million for Alabama Fish and Wildlife. That part of it would be good.

How this new bill ends up is unknown, but it seems like changes are coming to the current and confusing “line of sight” bait law that was enacted just last year.

That aside, there are millions of hunters, in Alabama and elsewhere, who do not like or accept hunting deer over bait, so that must be factored into it. Also, with the recent spread of Chronic Wasting Disease across America, many wildlife departments and experts do not like or recommend baiting because it congregates whitetails, which could accelerate the spread of disease.

Chuck Sykes, Alabama Director of Wildlife and Fisheries, has weighed in on the topic. “Supplemental feeding, when used properly, is a great management tool,” he said. “When it’s used improperly, it’s terrible. It’s just like anything else; it’s how you use it. It’s not a magic bullet. You can’t go out and pour a pile of corn and expect to kill a 160-inch deer. It doesn’t work that way. It’s one piece of a management program. If you want to use it, that’s fine. If you don’t, that’s fine, too. We’re not making you put feed out. It’s a choice.”

To Sykes, all the hoopla of hunting deer over bait in Alabama has taken away from the true meaning of supplemental feeding. “You need feed with 16- to 18-percent protein from February through October,” he said. “When the does have little ones and are lactating, and the bucks’ antlers are growing, you’ve got to have protein. Corn is like candy. It’s energy. In the winter, when it gets cold, corn will help them out when they need energy to stay warm.

“But a supplemental-feeding program is totally different than baiting. With supplemental feeding, you’re doing it for the wildlife. With baiting, you’re being selfish and trying to kill something instead of getting out and hunting.”

How do you feel about baiting?

Bottle Kills Whitetail Buck

bottle deer tongueTwo weeks ago, somebody dropped an old chair and a refrigerator in a parking lot of the state forest where I hike with my dog. I reported it to the authorities, but nobody seemed to give a damn; I doubt a deputy checked it out. I suspect the litterbug knew that, because yesterday, a few hundred yards from the first dump site, I found an old TV rolled off the road, down a bank and into a creek. This pretty little state forest is becoming some criminal’s personal trash pit.

With littering on my mind and mad as hell about it, this article and picture from QDMA hit me hard and made me even angrier.

The other day some guys found a dead buck and (excerpt): …someone looked in the buck’s mouth. Somehow, the buck had stuck its tongue into the mouth of a glass bottle and couldn’t get it back out. The bottle had broken off, but the ring of the bottle’s mouth remained. It had apparently cut off blood flow to the tongue…

…it is likely the deer died of thirst, which would have killed it faster than starvation. Thirst may also explain why it was found beside a pond.      

Click here to read more and see more pictures. If this doesn’t make you report littering, I don’t know what will. We all need to keep pounding the authorities until they start catching and fining those who would desecrate the land and, in some cases, kill our wildlife.

Ultimate Air-Travel Guide: How to Fly With Guns

planeI have flown hundreds of thousands miles with hunting guns in the last 30 years, on all the major carriers and in tiny bush planes, to cities and small towns across the U.S and Canada. While I have had minor hassles (you can’t fly anywhere with or without guns without some grief) I have not, knock on a walnut stock, had a major incident with any airline or Transportation Security Authority (TSA) employee or officer.

I have had 3 gun cases not make it to my final destination (knock wood harder) and those were only delayed a day. Three incidents in some 600 trips spread over 3 decades isn’t bad.

The reason I’ve had good fortune: I know the rules of packing and traveling with guns and ammo, and I follow those rules.

The goal here is to lay out a plan that will help you check your guns safely and legally at the airport so that they arrive at your hunting destination secure and on time. DISCLAIMER: It is up to you to read and know the rules and follow them to the letter of the law.

To do that, I’ve posted the official TSA guidelines for transporting firearms and ammunition. In the HANBACK NOTES that follow read my personal observations and tips that will make your travels easier, and keep you from messing up.

And you can’t mess up. Break a rule and at the least you’ll get hassled and miss your flight. Worst case, you risk a $10,000 fine and jail time.

Print a copy of this blog guide and carry it with you when you fly with guns.  

TSA: Transporting Firearms and Ammunition

You may transport unloaded firearms in a locked hard-sided container as checked baggage only. Declare the firearm and/or ammunition to the airline when checking your bag at the ticket counter. The container must completely secure the firearm from being accessed. Locked cases that can be easily opened are not permitted. Be aware that the container the firearm was in when purchased may not adequately secure the firearm when it is transported in checked baggage.

Firearms

–When traveling, comply with the laws concerning possession of firearms as they vary by local, state and international governments.

–Declare each firearm each time you present it for transport as checked baggage. Ask your airline about limitations or fees that may apply.

–Firearms must be unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container and transported as checked baggage only. Only the passenger should retain the key or combination to the lock.

–Firearm parts, including magazines, clips, bolts and firing pins, are prohibited in carry-on baggage, but may be transported in checked baggage.

–Rifle scopes are permitted in carry-on and checked baggage.

AMMUNITION

–Ammunition is prohibited in carry-on baggage, but may be transported in checked baggage.

–Firearm magazines and ammunition clips, whether loaded or empty, must be securely boxed or included within a hard-sided case containing an unloaded firearm. Read the requirements governing the transport of ammunition in checked baggage as defined by 49 CFR 175.10 (a)(8).

–Small arms ammunition, including ammunition not exceeding .75 caliber and shotgun shells of any gauge, may be carried in the same hard-sided case as the firearm.

HANBACK NOTES:

–First, about hard-sided gun cases. Buy a good metal or hard-plastic one ($200 or more) with quality locks and ample foam padding on the inside. A cheap, flimsy plastic Wal-Mart special won’t cut it.

–You can buy and use a case with TSA-approved locks, which means the TSA master key at any airport will open the case. It expedites the process, but if you’re paranoid somebody will open your case without your approval use your own locks.

–I used to use a case with TSA locks until a TSA officer at a Texas airport recognized me as he checked my rifle and said, “Surprised you use TSA locks, I sure wouldn’t if you now what I mean…” I bought a new case and now use my own heavy locks.

–If one of the locks or lock hinges on your gun case is loose or gets broken in transit, you must replace it or the case immediately. Do not show up at the airport with a damaged case or faulty locks, TSA will not allow you to travel.

–You can never check a gun case curbside; you must go inside to an airline counter. Somebody there will probably tell you, “Use the kiosk.” You tell him or her right off, “I’m checking an unloaded firearm and need assistance.” A ticket agent must help you. You’ll fill out an orange tag declaring the firearm unloaded; open your case and put the tag inside, and lock it back up. All the while be polite and follow the agent’s instructions to the letter.

–The firearm must be unloaded. Sounds like a no-brainer, but there are horror stories of experienced hunters and travelers trying to check loaded rifles they knew were empty.  Triple and quadruple check that your rifle is unloaded before you case it. I travel with bolt-actions, and so I remove the bolt, visually look and see that the chamber is empty and then often pack the bolt separately in the case.

–TSA inspects all gun cases somewhere near the ticket counters. You and an agent will roll your case down to a baggage security area. Stay with your case until it is screened and accepted by TSA. Do not wander off. Have your keys handy, most of the time an officer will open up the case, check inside and re-lock it. Be there to get your keys back.

–As for ammo, carry 2 boxes securely packed in their original cardboard boxes. In the U.S. these boxes may be carried in your locked gun case, and that is how I like to do it, but I have encountered a gray area here from airline to airline. Once in a while an agent who does not know the rules asks me to transfer the ammo to the separate duffel bag I’m checking. If asked, do it to avoid any confrontation, just be sure not to put any ammo boxes in your carry-on by mistake!

–Traveling anywhere in Canada, make sure to pack your ammo in your  checked duffel, they don’t let you pack it in your gun case up there.

–I reiterate two things: Pack all cartridges securely in their boxes; you cannot have any loose rounds rolling around in your duffel or in a pants pocket you packed. You’ll get busted and hassled for that. And triple check your carry-on (maybe a camo backpack you used while hunting) and make sure there are no loose rounds of ammo or even empty casings in there–failure to do so can land you in big trouble at the security line.

–TSA prohibits black powder or percussion caps to be transported on airplanes, not even in checked bags. On a muzzleloader hunt, you’ll carry your .50-caliber rifle and bullets in a locked case, and you’ll have to buy percussion caps and powder pellets at your final destination. Arrange that before your trip. Make sure to locate a big-box store or gun shop where you can stop and purchase caps and pellets before you head to camp.

–The TSA notes that individual airlines may have additional requirements for traveling with firearms and ammunition, and advises you to contact your airline regarding their carriage policies. Sounds like a good idea, but I can tell you from experience that you probably won’t get a straight answer from anybody on the phone. Just follow all the rules/notes above to the letter and you’ll be fine.

–This information is for the U.S. and Canada only. You must study up and follow a more complicated set of rules if flying with firearms to Mexico, Africa, etc.

 

NRA Endorses Donald Trump for President

trump

On Friday the NRA endorsed Donald Trump for President. This early endorsement of Trump (in a presidential election year, the NRA typically waits until much later in the fall to endorse a candidate) reveals how important the gun-rights organization feels this election will be.

In a statement, NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris Cox said: “The stakes in this year’s presidential election could not be higher for gun owners. If Hillary Clinton gets the opportunity to replace Antonin Scalia with an anti-gun Supreme Court justice, we will lose the individual right to keep a gun in the home for self-defense. …  So the choice for gun owners in this election is clear. And that choice is Donald Trump.”

Moments after accepting the endorsement, Trump spoke to a gathering of NRA members at the organization’s annual meeting in Louisville, KY and said 3 things that you as a gun owner need to remember:

“Crooked Hillary is the most anti-gun, anti-Second Amendment candidate,” he said. “She wants to take your guns away from you, just remember that.”

He took it further, saying, “Hillary Clinton wants to abolish the Second Amendment.”

To all of us Trump said, “I will not let you down.”

It’s no secret that Hillary has been anti-gun for decades, but as the socialist Bernie Sanders continues to drag her further and further left, she has increased up her hateful rhetoric on guns and our gun rights even more.

I began my career working at the NRA 30 years ago. I am a proud life member of the NRA, and have followed the #2A debate closely ever since. To my mind, there is little doubt that for us gun owners this is the most important presidential election in history.

The NRA’s endorsement of Donald Trump is major because gun owners vote and vote in numbers. If you are not an NRA member join now.

 

Vermont Deer-Poaching Couple

VT poaching 2Wayne and Jennie Dion are not your typical deer thieves.

Most poachers are young and misguided males, many of whom are into drugs.

But the Dions, both well into their 60s, could illegally kill deer with the best of them.

Several years ago Vermont Fish and Wildlife officials got wind of suspicious activity at the Dion property in Northeast Kingdom and began an extended investigation. Over time the wardens found well-worn deer trails leading from the woods to the couple’s backyard, which was hidden from the neighbors by a thick cedar hedge.

The stunner: Wardens discovered a sliding port complete with a gun rest cut into the back of the house. Five spotlights were pointed towards the backyard, at the center of which was a large pile of corn and apples. Baiting deer is illegal in Vermont.

Apparently Wayne and Jennie could sit inside their warm home watching TV at night, peek out the port from time to time, say, “Hey honey, there’s a nice buck,” and shoot him dead.

A warranted search of the Dion’s home turned up 91 deer antler plaques and 15 shoulder mounts.  The search also revealed seven chest freezers and several plastic totes containing corn and apples, which wardens believe were used to illegally bait deer.

Wardens discovered a large 9-point buck that they believe was killed the night before the 2014 season opened.  The deer was not tagged. Wardens seized the ATV that was allegedly used to drag the deer to the Dion’s basement, in addition to seizing the deer.

Officials say that more than 100 deer were likely shot, but they do not know for sure how many might have been poached over the years.

Wayne Dion faced multiple charges, including taking big game in closed season; transporting and possession of big game by illegal means; spotlighting; feeding deer; and failure to tag. Jennie Dion faced charges of aiding in a big game violation and possession of big game taken by illegal means.

Each charge carried a possible 60-day jail sentence and fine of $250-$500. They also faced a 3-year loss of hunting privileges.

In February of this year, WCAX.com reported that Jennie Dion pleaded no contest to possessing big game. The same for Wayne Dion for baiting deer and taking a deer out of season, and guilty for failure to tag deer. Both were fined. No jail time.

It is unclear whether or not they had their hunting licenses revoked, but surely that was the case. If not, it would be a travesty.

As you might expect, this sad story elicited a barrage of comments from locals in the community. A sampling:

This is a not hunting… I could understand if it was to put food on the table because you can’t afford to buy food but…that is not the case here…pure greed, whether for more trophies or to sell the meat…they stole from the rest of us…

People wait all year for hunting season and these jerks monopolized the entire herd by year-round feeding and baiting…these people cheated the entire community!

Despicable. I have to wonder why Vermont Fish and Wildlife investigated for almost 5 years before busting these cretins.

This is less than a mile from my land. This explains a hell of a lot, as we’ve seen a serious decrease of deer in the area. I hope they throw the book at them.

As for the verdict, every person who commented said it was way too soft.

I have reported on many poaching cases in the last 20 years. They are all sad and disgusting, and this one is no different. I am forever amazed at the lengths people will go to poach deer, and especially big deer.

These poachers were eventually busted because of the many anonymous tips the wardens got from the neighbors and locals. Every state has a toll-free poaching tip line; keep it with your license and use it if you must.