It is now legal to shoot deer over bait in our area. This change from last season came because of pressure from people wanting to kill deer easier. In meetings around the state, a fairly high majority of those attending wanted the change. The legislature sets hunting laws but could not come to a decision, so the governor passed the decision on to the DNR.
To make shooting deer over bait legal, the DNR changed the rules, not the law. They simply shrank the Northern Zone, where baiting is still illegal, to include only some federal lands in the area, where baiting was always illegal. Almost all of Georgia is now considered the “Southern” Zone, where baiting has been legal for several years.
I very intentionally said it is legal to shoot deer, not hunt them, over bait. Drawing animals and birds to you to shoot them is not hunting. That is why we go quail hunting but to a dove shoot. You look for quail in their habitat. You draw doves to a field to shoot them.
There are good and bad things about shooting over bait. For young hunters, especially those seeking their first deer, they are much more likely to be successful over bait. That is also true of some of us older folks as well as those with other handicaps that keep us from really hunting. But it does not teach hunting skills and the pride in working to take your quarry.
Deer tend to browse while feeding, moving a lot as they seek natural food sources. Even with food plots they will walk through them, pausing to eat but not staying in the same place for very long. But a pile of corn makes them come to the exact same place every day and spent more time in a very small area.
This concentration tends to make diseases spread among the deer. And it also makes it easier to predators other than us to pattern and kill them. There are many pictures from trail cameras set up around feeders showing coyotes and bobcats hanging around feeders, waiting on an easy meal to come to them.
To me there is no difference between putting out a corn feeder to attract deer to you and planting a food plot to do the same, except for the amount of work involved. Food plots have always been legal, and they do have the benefit of providing food for deer year-round, not just during hunting season.
I try to stay legal although I do not consider myself a deer hunter. I simply want to harvest two or three deer, preferably does, each year for the freezer. I’m a meat harvester. When younger I did thrill in looking for bucks in their natural habitat, figuring out their movements and patterns, and placing a stand in exactly the right place to get a shot at a buck.
I am proud of the first buck I killed 50 years ago this fall, a small eight pointer. I went out on public land, found signs and figured out where to put my stand, all on my own. It was tougher back then with fewer deer and fewer open days to hunt. I have killed much bigger bucks since then around my food plots but there is no pride in taking them.
I found out a few years ago how effective baiting is. I have 75 acres I hunt on in Spalding County. I plant a small field with wheat, clover and winter peas each year hoping to make it easier for me to get my meat. I have also planted crab apple trees and fertilized persimmon trees. For years I was successful.
About four years ago I stopped seeing deer in my food plots. They had changed their movement patterns. I was told a neighbor with less than ten acres of land had put a corn feeder and I found it. His stand was on his side of a gulley between his land and mine, but his feeder was actually on my property.
Deer had changed their routes, going by the corn in preference to coming by my field. I found lots of signs around the corn and trails that led to it from bedding areas, then to other areas that bypassed my field. That was frustrating.
Since baiting is now legal, I will put out a couple of corn feeders. I will continue to plant food plots if for no other reason than to have food available year-round for them and keep them healthier. And I will move my feeders every few months, so the deer will not stay in one small area all the time and help spread disease. And moving them will confuse other predators, at least a little.
Baiting is not a bad thing for some animals. Wild hogs are not game animals, they are a serious problem for farmers and the environment. So, putting out bait and shooting or trapping as many of them as you can is a good thing.
Baiting bears in some states has been legal a long time, but not in north Georgia. Bait gets bears to come to where the waiting person can shoot them. In some areas it is almost impossible to actually hunt bears due to their inconsistent movement and impenetrable habitat. Still, it is bear shooting, not hunting.
Are you a hunter or a harvester? You can be both, but not on the same property unless it is huge. Putting out food for deer and shooting deer over it but hunting for a quality buck is possible, but if your bait changes the bucks habits you are not really going after him on his own natural habitat. Since bait will attract deer for an area covering at least a square mile, you really need two different places to separate the two.
What will you be this year?
Till next time – Gone fishing!