Michigan: Baiting Deer for Hunting is Illegal in Lower Peninsula
On Tuesday, Oct. 1, archery deer hunting season kicked off in Michigan. It runs through Nov. 14 and will go again from Dec. 1 through Jan. 1, 2020. Regular firearm season takes place from Nov. 15-30.
Now is the time to remind hunters that as of Jan. 31, no baiting or feeding deer is allowed in the Lower Peninsula. This is due to the dangers posed by Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), a contagious, neurological disease that affects deer, elk and moose.
According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), bait is a substance intended for consumption that is composed of grains, minerals (including salt and salt blocks), fruits, vegetables, hay or other food materials, which may lure, entice or attract deer or elk as an aid in hunting.
Feed is a substance intended for consumption that is composed of grains, minerals (including salt and salt blocks), fruits, vegetables, hay or other food materials, which may lure, entice or attract deer or elk for any reason other than hunting.
The only exception to the baiting regulation involves the “youth and hunters with disabilities hunts,” which took place in mid-September. Another hunters with disabilities hunt will take place Oct. 17-20. For specific information about this hunt and regulations, visit michigan.gov/dnr.
For the most part, you cannot bait deer in your hunting camp or choice of hunting grounds in the Lower Peninsula or the parts of the counties listed above (see www.michigan.gov). Why then do local gas stations and other retailers sell large bags of carrots, potatoes, apples and cracked corn? A former Fenton gas station employee said they were instructed by management that selling bait isn’t illegal. If the buyer purchases the food and engages in unlawful baiting, that is their problem to deal with.
Holly Vaughn with the DNR said, “We are unable to regulate what retailers can sell. It is possible that customers are buying these foods for areas in the UP where baiting is legal.”
If deer visit your big back yard in the city and make themselves at home eating from your berry bushes, or make a smorgasbord of your vegetable garden while you sleep — that is not considered baiting because you have no intention of hunting them.
The DNR says food plots, which are naturally occurring foods, standing agricultural crops, or food placed as a result of using normal agricultural practices are not considered to be bait or feed. But constructing or maintaining any food plot or any artificial garden to attract wildlife on public land is prohibited.
The punishment for baiting
Unlawful baiting of deer is a misdemeanor offense with a maximum of 90 days in jail, a minimum fine of at least $50 to a maximum fine of $500, court costs and state fees, and the loss of hunting privileges at the discretion of the court.
CWD causes a degeneration of the brain resulting in emaciation (abnormally thin), abnormal behavior, loss of bodily functions and death. CWD is fatal — once an animal is infected there is no recovery or cure. To date, there is no evidence that CWD can be naturally transmitted to humans or to other animals.
As a precaution, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend that infected animals not be consumed as food by either humans or domestic animals.
CWD is caused by a normal protein, called a prion, that folds incorrectly and can infect other deer. It is transmitted through direct animal to animal contact or by contact with saliva, urine, feces, blood, carcass parts of an infected animal or infected soil. Prions are extremely resistant in the environment and can stay infectious for years, according to a statement released by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) and the DNR.
“With a disease like CWD, everyone’s actions matter,” said DNR state wildlife veterinarian, Kelly Straka, DVM. “Whether you are a deer producer submitting samples for surveillance or a hunter practicing safe carcass disposal, we all have a role to play in minimizing the risk of disease spread.”
Since May 2015, when the first free-ranging white-tailed CWD-positive deer was found in Michigan, CWD has been confirmed in free-ranging white-tailed deer in the Lower Peninsula from Clinton, Eaton, Gratiot, Ionia, Ingham, Jackson, Kent, and Montcalm counties.
Additionally, a CWD-positive deer was found in the Upper Peninsula in Dickinson County in October of last year.