Baiting tends to be a controversial topic whether it involves hogs, deer, or ducks.
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Fall is fast approaching and with it comes deer season, duck season, turkey season…the list goes on. Basically, fall is a mash-up of a hunting version of My Favorite Things. Instead of whiskers on kittens or warm woolen mittens, though, we’re talking racks on bucks and warm(ish) waterproof waders. And while I’ve been thinking about my upcoming hunting seasons I’ve also been thinking about related topics like caliber selection and…baiting.

Yes, baiting.

Before we delve into this one let’s go ahead and say it’s legal. There are places you cannot bait, some due to long-standing regulations and some due to the spread of CWD and EHD, but for the sake of argument let’s shelve that and discuss the idea of baiting where it is legal.

If you aren’t familiar with baiting, here’s a quick definition. Baiting means you put some sort of edible substance on the ground to attract your prey – deer, hogs, whatever – whether that bait pile is corn, minerals, or hay (it’s a long list). Hunters bait to encourage animals to visit an area. Photographers do it, too, as do people who just want to see deer or squirrels frequenting their property. So, is it ethical?

Scent attractants are a good way to attract feral hogs to an area but using them doesn’t guarantee anything.

Baiting is controversial. Not only that, there are factions within the baiting realm that argue their way is purer than the others. Bowhunters bait, they say, to ensure a closer shot; deer hunters often bait – or feed deer, which is a bit different – and add minerals to encourage bone growth and bulk. There are those who dump bait piles of corn and minerals for deer and those who chain out barrels with grease, candy, or molasses-soaked oats to attract bears. Duck hunters do it, too.

When you bait in a fair-chase scenario where animals can come and go as they please, there are no guarantees. It isn’t a high-fence property where animals are often fed similarly to pets or corn is trailed from a side-by-side while the animals trail along behind it. When you bait deer on free-range land the buck you’ve had your eye on may or may not show up.

You can put out dozens of trail cams and obsessively track his routes, but there are no guarantees. Yes, baiting will increase your odds, but it doesn’t mean you’ll absolutely get the buck you want (or any buck at all). Who here has sat on bait every weekend throughout deer season and never seen a shooter? Probably a lot of you, if not everyone.

Oh, planting food plots is not different than baiting. It’s more time-intensive and involves significant labor and an understanding of the best crops to attract deer but I have news for you: it’s still bait. We plant food plots specifically to bring deer into the area. Same goes for staking out that acorn grove you know Whitetails love to visit. Does that sound like baiting?

Some food plots like this one are on public land and planted by the DNR.

If you’re hunting free-range and have feeders dumping corn or a food plot bursting with clover, more power to you. I know from long experience the likelihood of free-range deer or hogs showing up at bait. It’s a maybe/maybe not situation.

I’ve spent endless hours hunting over bait only to have no shooter bucks come through because hey, we’re talking about ethical hunting here. You don’t take a shot just because something with a rack walks up. We grow bucks and does. This isn’t a free-for-all. Right? “If it’s brown, it’s down” should not be your credo.

Bottom line is that baiting with corn, planting food plots, and sitting on an acorn grove are all in the same realm. The regularity with which guys who plant plots claim to be better than the guys dumping corn would be hilarious if it wasn’t so sad.

You’re all trying to lure animals in. And although it might be a surprise to some, I don’t believe there’s anything unethical about free-range bait. Ethical hunting comes down to a few things: can the animal in question get away or are they confined to a set space, do you have a clean shot, and is it legal? Are you being a good sportsman?

Respect the animal. Follow the laws. Be a good sportsman. Be grateful for the opportunity you have to sit in the woods and fields enjoying the beauty of nature.

Want to bait? Go for it. ‘Merica.

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  1. As far as I’m concerned, if it’s an invasive, destructive critter, bait and kill it.

    I have *zero* ethical problem with using bait to kill the cockroaches here in Florida, so if it’s legal to bait destructive hogs, go for it…

    • If it’s a destructive species with no season restriction or bag limit, what you’re doing should be considered pest control, not hunting. Your obligation is to kill humanely, and that’s about it.

    • Pest control and hunting are two very different things. No problem with doing what must be done for pest control but if you have to bait while hunting just give up the hobby. You might as well buy a side of steak from your local butcher, hang it from a tree, and shoot it. It’s the same level of accomplishment.

      • … if you have to bait while hunting just give up the hobby.


        That all depends on your quarry and the locations that are available for you to hunt.

        I have hunted precisely ONE property where I could set-up along a game trail and have a realistic chance of seeing/shooting a deer. All of the other properties that I have hunted: no dice. Hunting small parcels of private property leaves few options and extremely low probabilities of success without baiting. Add the fact that many regions only allow shotguns (with maximum ranges of 30 to about 100 yards depending on your shotgun and slug) and quite often you have basically no chance of harvesting a deer without bait.

        Furthermore, deer can be incredibly wary in many locations/regions. It is effectively impossible to stalk such deer: they will hear, see, and/or smell you LONG before you have any idea that they are there.

  2. Of course it’s ethical. It’s just another thing that can make hunting easier. But that’s really where I see the issue. Is it really hunting or at this point is it more trapping? Trapping has tons of benefits and humans started doing it because it was easier then actually seeking out and hunting game. Put it in words the younger crowd can understand:

    High fence hunting = beginner mode.
    Hunting over bait = moderate mode.
    Hunting without aid of fence/bait = difficult mode.
    Hunting in the manner of seeking out, tracking and finding the game = expert mode.

    • Driving the family minivan and field dressing whatever is dumb enough to stand in the middle of the road and stare at headlights = Dad mode.

  3. There is a sign displayed conspicuously over my wildlife food:

    “This grain is not deer bait. It’s for squirrels, ground hogs, chipmunks and rabbits. Any deer caught consuming this food will be shot!”

  4. Baiting is illegal here. I wish I had the ability to plant a food plot of a few acres or so.

    • Same here. Often wonder if folks who own an apple orchard can hunt it. Or corn farmers. One man’s baiting is another man’s crop protection no?

      • My great-grandpa had an orchard, he’d shoot deer that entered it in winter because they’d eat the bark off his trees and kill them.

        Killing critters that are destructive to agriculture is legal around here.

  5. I put out decoys for dove and crow. I use mouth calls and e calls for crow and yotes. Is that baiting?

  6. Hunt smarter, not harder. I’m generally fine with baiting, decoys, scents, etc., as long as it’s legal. If you want something more challenging, then go for it – you do you. Our primary advantage over these animals lies between our ears and it would be silly not to use it, IMHO.

  7. Just because it is legal for game species doesnt make it ethical or right. There is a big difference between hunting and harvesting game animals.

    • I dunno about that. Plenty of predators in nature use ambush tactics, pack hunters cooperate to bring down prey, spiders and the like lay traps. There are even cases of animals using bait…

      Seems to me that the main consideration of what methods should be allowed or disallowed is the health of the prey population. It’s not like we’re doing things animals don’t do.

  8. I hate these so called “purists” Optical sights on high powered long range rigs are ok. Fiber optic sights on high tech compound bows are ok. Angle compensating laser range finders with built in ballistic computers are ok. Artificial sent control is ok. All these other “tool”s are ok but trying to fool a deer into shooting range by playing to its stomach is some how a problem. As long you only shoot legal game animals, only shoot what you have a tag for, and you go about it safely, how you get the animal on the ground is of no consequence.

    • Then, get off your high horse, and hunt with a flintlock, or better a spear, or even use an atl atl to get some real thrill in your hunt.

      IF you just want easy meat, go the supermarket and spend the money on your baiting, lasers, night vision, IR sensors, and tools to make killing easier there.

  9. I have been wondering about food plots for years. The question i still have is does the animal still count in the record books.??????/

  10. Given the fact (yes, I said FACT) That God Almighty gave us the plants and animals to be stewards over, I think the method is completely and totally irrelevant! Us fulky automatic weapons if you want, as long as a healthy herd is maintaned, no worries. You can over hunt and ruin a once healthy herd even if you do it with a bow, barefoot, and no bait. You just have to be really good. That would be “ethical” by many standards, but the herd would still be ruined if all the mature good genetic bucks are dead and only retards get to father the next generation. I think herd health shpuld be more ethical standard than the killing method chosen. Just sayin

  11. Such silliness. I can’t legally bait in my state but the hunt still involves finding the trails to/from food and bedding and popping the hapless bastards in their commute. When you find where they graze is that bait?

  12. Hunting over bait , isn’t that how the FBI catches “criminals”? If it’s good enough for the cops, it’s good enough for me.

  13. Solved the baiting issue many years ago. Simply planted 3 apple trees in the area I hunt. Since they are part of the environment it’s not considered baiting. Many deer kills later. Trees still producing apples and deer well stock in the freezer. The secret to a great hunt is good planning. You young guys/gals plant now. In a few years your hunt will be a guaranteed kill every year.

  14. I lived in Wisconsin for few years when baiting was legal. Then it was declared illegal and hunters pitched such a fit that I think that is was actually relegitimized. At any rate it didn’t really bother me, I chose to hunt by other means.

    In Colorado where I lived for many years, baiting of black bears was permitted until sometime in the late 80’s as I recollect. The practice was unpopular and baiting was declared illegal. Since that time the black bear population has blossomed and now there are bears roaming the streets in the more rural communities and the ski resorts. Bears have found it easier to exist by raiding trash cans in the city rather than foraging in the wild. The bears have also lost their fear of humans as they have become more habituated. Many of the repeat offending bears are euthanized by Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff, such a waste. The way I see it the over abundance of bears is directly related to stopping bear baiting that led to a gross under harvest of animals. I’d like to hear your opinions please.

    • Its simple, baiting led to generations of non hunters, and, once you let a skill disappear, rarely does it just reinvent itself.

      Perhaps you just need more guys to get out of their stands and beat the brush to make the bears get up and move, that’s how it has always worked in Pennsylvania, 25 people working as a group to get one shot.

      Its called “Hunting”.

      • Baiting black bears has been illegal in PA for a long time, hence the more common use of alternative tactics like driving. Baiting could arguably allow for more control over which bears get harvested as compared to blasting at whatever gets spooked by a drive.

      • Deer driving with large groups of people is the least like hunting of anything mentioned on this page or in the comments. Not that I have a problem with it. Pennsylvania has many terrible hunters according to this definition. That state is the very definition of the “it’s brown it’s down” state.

  15. I’ve done it both ways and this quote says it all “Bottom line is that baiting with corn, planting food plots, and sitting on an acorn grove are all in the same realm. ”
    Baiting is no different than finding a white oak dropping acorns and setting up near it. Bait does not guarantee anything. In fact in my experience setting up near a white oak tree works better than throwing corn on the ground.

  16. If you bait deer, you are NOT a hunter, plain and simple.

    I don’t care if the tool you use is an atl atl, or a scoped rifle, unless you are beating the bush, and driving the deer out of their habitat and hiding places to get a shot, its not hunting, its camping out, waiting for something to come and get shot.

    Hunting involves action on the hunters part, if you bait, or sit in a stand on your fat butt, you are a pathetic, and don’t deserve to be in the same county as real hunters.

    • I’d love for this guy to spout his definition of hunting to Cam Hanes.

      Look, if nothing else, all those “fat” and “pathetic” hunters are a big reason why you still get to hunt the way you want to hunt. You’re obviously welcome to your opinion about methods other than yours, but throwing a bunch of good people into a negative category because they don’t do it the way you do it is asinine. I’ve got my opinion about the way you hunt, but at the end of the day, I’m just glad you’re part of the hunting community.

    • This guy is hilarious. No one “drives” deer out of their habitat to “get a shot” except the old time “deer drive” dudes and that was the thing least like hunting of all (though I say LIVE IT UP!). I mean it happens accidentally sometimes, of course, but I have seen hunters all over America and the overwhelming number of deer are taken by people standing or sitting still. You can tell by this guy’s comments that he has probably never been deer hunting in his life. And I am a longbow hunter who has been spotting and stalking deer from the ground for years. Even mine are always taken from a standstill and the encounters are very rarely anything but random. This person has never been deer hunting. He is a cornball.

  17. If you must have “true sport” take up football or badmitton. Harvesting meat is just that, nothing more.

  18. You hit on a good point – that deer baiting leads to better bone growth and nutrient intake, leading to better overall health.

    I use – it’s all-natural powder that helps to 1) bring in more deer for hunting purposes 2) balance natural deficiencies and strengthen all deer (and other animals) that it brings in.

    The way I look at it: it’s good for me, as a hunter, and it’s good for every animal that comes into contact with it.
    It’s a true win-win, which is rare.

  19. If you have to bait, you’re not really hunting. I understand baiting for pests like the hogs because the whole idea is to kill as many as possible. But for regular hunting of deer, turkey, bear, etc., this is just the lazy man’s way. If you can’t put any effort into hunting, stay home.

  20. I guess a worm on a hook is not really fishing. Sitting under a walnut tree watching for squirrels is not hunting.

    As long as you are harvesting a legal size and eating the meat I am ok with it. If you want to track it first, that is ok too.

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