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Since the news broke this past weekend that a 2008 rewrite of South Carolina’s law against baiting for deer in the upstate mistakenly omitted a line — thus creating what appears to be a loophole of sorts — deer hunters across the area have been in a frenzy.
Many hunters have rushed out to buy bags and bags of corn in hopes of baiting their hunting areas and drawing deer in for an easy kill. What they don’t understand is that, despite how the article written by a writer for The State newspaper and carried by most news outlets in the area reads, the action is no more legal now than it was before the omission was noticed.
Make no mistake about it. Baiting for deer anywhere within game zones one and two (ours) remains to be an illegal activity, and a conversation that I held on Monday with representatives from our state’s Department of Natural Resources in Columbia made that quite clear.
In fact, the only thing that has changed due to the mistake that occurred during the printing process was the way in which those found baiting will be prosecuted.
To put that in plain English, if caught baiting for deer, you absolutely will be brought up on charges for breaking the law.
That clear enough for you?
For the life of me, I can’t understand why so many are infatuated with the idea of baiting. After hunting in numerous states where the action is legal and having lived in the Lowcountry where it has always been within the law to do so, baiting is a double- edged sword.
I do see where those of us in the Upstate that have been “on the outside, looking in” might feel that the practice creates an advantage to the hunter but the truth is that, in reality, it does not. This is especially true when baiting is done in the same manner in which Lowcountry hunters have become accustomed to do it.
First, let’s consider what baiting with corn does to a deer herd.
There is no denying that deer love the stuff. It’s like handing cocaine to a junkie and these critters will eat it until they’re about to pop. The problem within that is that as long as their belly is full, they won’t bother to eat those things in which their body actually needs and the result is that a deer can absolutely die from starvation despite having a full belly.
If you don’t believe that, let me throw a little something out there for you to compare it to in hopes of making it a little clearer. We all know that children love candy. If given a choice, they’d eat it non-stop.
What if you allowed them to eat nothing but that for months on end? Just as in this scenario, corn provides little to no nutritional value and the end result is not pretty.
One state that has allowed baiting for years is Texas, and I’ve spent quite a bit of time down there. In that area, the use of corn is quite common but the extreme majority of folks utilize timed feeders for placing it out. The way that this works is that, when the timer goes off, the feeder has an attachment that spins and throws the corn out for 10 to 15 seconds.
This accomplishes two things. First, it regulates just how much corn is placed on the ground (very little) and conditions the animals to come into the feeder at those two specific times during daylight hours. That’s a far cry from how hunters in South Carolina's Lowcountry go about it.
The other negative effect that baiting can have relates to those two words I just mentioned- “daylight hours.” You see, deer aren’t stupid. When corn is piled high on the ground, the mature deer know better than to open themselves up to an easy ambush.
You have to keep in mind that hunters are not the only predators that are out in the woods. Because of this, the extreme majority of action that takes place at openly baited sites tends to happen at night, under the cover of darkness when the animals feel safer about sneaking in to eat. This means that deer movement in general becomes nocturnal, thus actually lowering your chances of taking a good buck.
Jealousy is just a part of human nature and it’s been rearing its ugly head for generations to deer hunters in the lower part of the state. With baiting being legal there, hunters have become part of an all out war against their neighboring landowners and it has become a horrible scene in many areas.
No, I don’t mean that they’re actually at war with each other, using their guns and such. Instead, corn bombs are the weapon used. Here’s how the mentality down there tends to be.
When Billy Bob on the farm next door has bigger bait piles than his neighbors, those folks become scared. They mistakenly believe that because of this, they’ll need to “out do” him with the corn or all of the deer are going to be over on his place. So, they buy enough to accomplish that task.
Then old Billy Bob, along with the neighbors on every side, retaliate and begin a chain reaction that results in tons of corn lying all over the place in huge piles. Anyone that’s ever hunted down in those parts has seen it piled high they just didn’t realize what was actually taking place.
The reality of this scenario is that all of this foolishness could have been averted if Billy Bob’s neighbor had had enough sense to understand the deer a bit better. You see, if that neighbor had a number of lush food plots planted on his place, the deer might still be found next door on Billy Bob’s corn at night but they’d be spending the legal shooting hours over on his land and in his fields.
It’s my hope that hunters in these parts are going to be smart enough to not get caught up in all of this baiting hype. As soon as the new session begins in a few months, our legislators will be making sure that the proper wording is re-inserted into the law so as to put a stop to all of the confusion that has taken place. In the meantime, just know that tossing corn on the ground to deer hunt over still comes with consequences that you don’t want to face.