State Rep. Gary Haluska, from Cambria County, is introducing a bill into the Pennsylvania House that would for all intent and purposes allow hunters to use corn as bait and be able to hunt deer over a pile of corn. This practice is currently not allowed in most of Pennsylvania, save an area in Southeast Pennsylvania where deer populations are out of control and biologists are trying to dream up ways of reducing it.

For clarifications of this discussion, the allowance of deer baiting and hunting over it in seven counties is a bit unusual. Where most of the deer population problems are, there are very little allowable hunting areas. Game officials thought they would try allowing baiting in surrounding areas in hopes of luring the deer from the quiet sanctuaries they live in out to bait piles where hunters can shoot the deer. I’m not sure how that worked. Last year was the first attempt at this.

Now we have legislation, HB1862, that would make this practice legal statewide. For now, let’s toss out the ethics of hunting over bait because there is very little black and white when it comes to ethics.

It is legal to feed deer in Pennsylvania as well as growing food plots for game. What is illegal is to set up a stand or blind and hunt directly over that bait pile or food plot. Why change it?

There’s always been a lot of discussion about what is legal and not legal as well as the reasons for and against hunting over bait. We now have at least one legislator who wants to clarify the law by making it legal.

To me the real issue should be whether allowing hunting deer over bait is a necessary part of a deer management plan rather than one simply to clarify laws. Allowing hunting over bait could drastically change the results of deer harvesting, forcing officials to scramble to find ways of curtailing the harvest numbers.

Remember, Pennsylvania has been having long and heated discussions about whether the Game Commission is allowing for the taking of too many deer now. Officials set out to reduce deer populations throughout most of the state in order to save the forests. Hunters complained, even to the point of one hunting group taking the PGC to court to force them to stop the overkilling of whitetail deer.

I recently talked with the director of wildlife for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Bob Duncan, about that state’s use of hound hunting of deer as a management tool. Aside from the fact that hound hunting is a longtime tradition in Virginia, Duncan informed me that hound hunting is very much a necessary part of the overall deer management plan for that state. Without it, he said, they would have a serious deer overpopulation problem.

Is this the case in Pennsylvania though? Do they have a deer overpopulation problem that could be better addressed by allowing hunting over bait? It would seem not to be the case and that this law proposal would only work to clarify or simplify the law governing hunting over bait.

Should this become law, Pennsylvania hunters may expect to see some changes made in the number of tags issued and length of season in order to maintain the deer herds at desired levels.

Tom Remington

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