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?