Friday, December 1, 2017

Proper Baiting Tactics for Whitetail Deer

Baiting is one of those topics that really bring out some heated discussions. Should you bait or not? Is it ethical? Does dumping a pile of corn on the ground change behavior? Is putting food out for deer the same as mineral licks or water holes?

The debate can go on for days. In fact it has gone on for years in many areas of the country. Today's post is not to debate the merits of bait. It is not to discuss whether it is legal, ethical or merited. It is simply to look at methods of baiting and how to do it in the most effective manner.

It has been my experience that baiting can draw deer from other areas to the bait station. It has also been my experience that baiting does not necessarily cause deer to alter their behavior. If anything, the only thing baiting has done is create a generation of hunters how do not know, nor care to learn woodsmanship.

Recently I was scouting a location for the upcoming trapping season. I was walking along the edge of a mature soybean field. Beautiful chest high soybeans. When I reached the edge of the field near a back corner I stopped in my tracks. There on the edge of the soybean field was a large pile of corn! My fist thought was 'what an idiot'. Who would waste their money and time pouring out corn along a soybean field? That is akin to dumping corn in the middle of persimmons, or along the edge of a ridge of white oak trees while they are dropping their acorns. The deer are coming to the soybeans anyway, the use of corn or any bait in this situation is wasteful, and ignorant.

Bait is best used when there are NO alternative native food sources available. Let me say that again. Bait is best used when there are NO alternative native food sources available. If there is a good acorn crop there is no need to bait, the deer will always choose acorns over corn or any other bait. When there is green soybeans, the deer will always choose soybeans over corn or bait. Bait for this discussion is the placed food source. corn, carrots, alfalfa, pears, apples etc. anything that is placed by hand, feeder or other methods and does not naturally grow or planted.

Bait is often not used well because of its location. Deer do not like to expose themselves during daylight. If you are putting bait out in the middle of a field, clear-cut or other big opening you will not draw bucks to that food during daylight except in extreme situations. Bait stations near cover or in the woods are best for bucks. They need to feel safe. In Texas for example they like to put bait along roadways that are cut through the middle of thick bedding cover. the bucks can come our feed and retreat and still fee safe. In the southeast, bait stations that are in the thick cover get a lot more attention than those in the open. The closer to cover the better the deer like it when it comes to placing bait.

Another mistake hunters make with bait is only baiting during the hunting season. The deer will get skiddish quickly when the pressure is on them. Begin your baiting regimen months before the season opens. One method we began that seems to work is to begin using our feeders in July before the opening of season on September 1. This allows two things to occur. We can get a good survey of the herd, and it conditions the deer to the bait and the location without much interference. It also allows them to begin to associate our interference as a positive. They learn quickly that the sound of the four wheeler means food. Many times when hunting bait. We will drive the wheeler into the area, let out a hunter, and leave. Fooling the deer into thinking new food just arrived. On many occasions this has resulted in a kill at the station shortly after the machine is out of hearing.

Using timed feeders or manually dispersing has advantages and disadvantages. For the absentee land owner, the timed feeder is excellent because it feeds when you are absent. It keeps things rolling while you are away. The downside of this is that it limits your options of what you can use for bait. it is hard to use carrots, apples or pears in a spin feeder. So if you use one of these you are limiting yourself to corn or pellets.

In our experience when using corn for bait, the cob corn tends to work a shade better. It seems that the deer take a lot longer to eat the cob corn so it last a lot longer then the shelled corn. There again, when using a feeder, shelled corn and some minerals is all that can be used.

Baiting can be effective at certain times of the year and under certain circumstances. Relying too much on the dumping of food to kill a deer is not the best use of your time. Finding the animals, locating their bedding, feeding and travel corridor is essential to placing a good bait station.

Baiting is legal in many areas, so if you are going to do it, do it well.

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