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| 3 min read | by Doug Marrin, |

Photo: Wikipedia

When the snow gets deep and winter bares its fangs, I like to throw out some corn for the turkeys and deer. This year however the world has gone hooves over antlers for our white-tailed friends. No longer can they count on the kindness of strangers to keep their strength up against the howling hibernal winds.

It is now illegal to feed or bait the animal of our state’s seal in the Lower Peninsula and central Upper Peninsula. This winter our state animal is on its own to forage while we watch from the warm comfort of our living room windows, turtleneck and single-malt hot toddy keeping us warm and aloof.

Baiting and feeding deer are the same thing with different intentions. According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), ‘Bait’ and ‘feed’ are both defined as “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 …”

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It is ‘bait’ when done “as an aid in hunting.” It is ‘feed’ when done “for any reason other than hunting.”

As of Jan. 31, 2019, baiting and feeding are banned in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula and in the Upper Peninsula’s core CWD (Chronic Wasting Disease) surveillance region, the mid-section of the U.P.

It is suspected that CWD is spread between animals through bodily fluids like feces, saliva, blood, or urine either through direct contact or indirectly through contaminated soil, food or water. Lovely.


Scientists are afraid of something like this happening: A bunch of deer are standing around, eating the corn I scattered. One sketchy-looking chap, new to the group, wet-hacks without covering his mouth, rudely wipes his mouth with the back of his leg and keeps eating. The other deer, unlearned in the transmission of prions that interfere with neurological pathways, continue crunching away unfazed. After a bit, they say their goodbyes and each go their separate ways to other feed piles, waiting at the road for traffic to approach before crossing, a few now with a latent scratch in their throat.

The ban on baiting and feeding deer is to reduce transmission of disease between deer, humans (yuck!), and livestock such as “cattle, goats, sheep, new world camelids, bison, swine, horses or captive cervidae.”

Bison I get, but I had to look up what “new world camelids” were. These are llamas, alpacas, vicuñas, and guanacos – domesticated animals of South America that spit on you. My grandsons and I saw a few at the 4-H Fair this year. We were warned about their inclination to expectorate. It sounds like a fun pet alright. If Mondays were an animal

Captive cervidae, I learned, are hoofed animals like deer, moose, elk, and caribou that are, well, captive like in a zoo or … as a pet? The Russians once had the idea to conquer the world with a moose cavalry. If they used the U.P. as a training ground, they couldn’t feed deer within 100 yards of their stables. The whole idea is preposterous and they’ve since given up the idea of mounting moose for world domination opting instead for simply milking them.

You can, of course, choose to stick it to the man and feed the deer anyway. Should you decide to go all viva la revolución over the issue, you could get cuffed and spend up to 90 days in the Big House, and I don’t mean a suite at Michigan Stadium. Fines would be a minimum of $50 to a maximum of $500. Don’t count on that innocent doe-eyed look that you picked up from your front yard friends getting you off the hook either.

South American Vicugna | Photo: Wikipedia

You can find further clarifications at the MDNR website regarding the use of bait in allowed areas of the U.P., lures, and exceptions for veterans and hunters with disabilities such as blindness. I’m not a hunter, nor am I blind, but I am curious as to how the two can be compatible.

The good news is that I can still get a bag of corn at the Dexter Mill for the wild turkeys that hang out around our place in the winter. According to Michigan United Conservation Clubs, I can’t scatter it around anymore because the deer haven’t yet gotten the word on the ban. I have to buy a turkey feeder.

There is a loophole to the ban on feeding deer, and baiting. It has to do with growing food. MDNR tells us that “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.”

“Normal agricultural practices” of course begs the question, what are abnormal agricultural practices? which they do not explain. Again, they leave me hanging.

A friend who hunts told me yesterday he knows of a lot of hunters who aren’t going out because of the ban on baiting deer. I thought, Really? They go into the woods to sit with a high-powered weapon and they give up that easily? I would understand if the deer were now armed and shooting back.

But, if we really wanted to create a sporting most-dangerous-game scenario here in Michigan, go in the opposite direction and require baiting close enough to where deer can cough on you.

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