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4/5/17- The Baiting Bill

By Meaghan English, TrueSouth Properties Wildlife Specialist

Recently, the state of Texas has faced great controversy over legalizing poison to control the feral hog population. Now, Alabama is in the hot seat. A bill has been passed by the House of Representatives allowing people to legally hunt directly over bait. The catch is, you have to pay and you are limited to hog and deer ONLY. There are many mixed emotions regarding this bill and I think it is important that we understand the logic behind it.

If you own property in any part of Alabama, chances are you are dealing with hog issues. Many folks are just plain sick and tired of paying the damages (literally) and are at the end of their rope. Well, that is part of the baiting bill. The aspiration is that if we allow hunters to hunt over bait, we will exterminate the hogs before they exterminate crops and other valuables. Many hunters have complained that they simply do not supplemental feed in the offseason because it never produces. For example, many turkey hunters have given up on planting chufas because the hogs get it before the turkeys even know it’s there. Furthermore, hunters go out and spend thousands of dollars in hopes to benefit their local deer herd, when actually they are just providing a high dollar meal for the swine. Other landowners are tired of replacing feeders and food troughs due to high numbers of hogs present on their private property. And let’s be honest, there is only so much one person can do. You can shoot and trap all day long but if landowners are not on the same page regarding hog control, the problem will only get worse. But hogs are not the only siginificant factor in this bill. Many landowners and hunters are worried about the effect this will have on the deer population. The response to that question is this: Texas has been allowing hunting over bait for quite some time now and they have the best deer herd out there (I’m not talking about genes, I’m talking numbers!) The law that is in place now allows baiting to an extent; there must be 100 yards between the hunter and the bait and it must be out of sight. The bill that is being proposed now is not that different in the grand scheme of things.

The other side to this bill is you don’t have to participate! If you don’t agree with hunting over bait and you would like to stick to the traditional ways of hunting, save your $15 for a bait permit and continue on like you have been. I think that hunting over bait has probably been happening illegally for a while and it might as well become a law. Besides, stand up citizens will hopefully stick to the bag limits that are enforced and if hunting over a pile of corn enables them to tag out quickly, that’s great! I really believe that this bill is intended to better our management efforts when it comes to hogs and provide some quick relief for an epidemic that is spinning out of control. If we don’t do anything about the hogs, you can forget about the deer. Hogs and whitetail deer do not cohabitate for long. There is a lot of freedom that comes with this potential law. Landowners and hunters have the freedom to decide if they want to participate on their private property or not. If the answer is yes, a $15 permit must be purchased along with a hunting license. The fee for the permit is allocated to administrative fees and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which is another enticement.

From a wildlife management standpoint, this is a very big stride in the right direction. As long as all hunters and landowners follow season limits and other hunting regulations, this bill could achieve the ultimate goal which is eradicating feral swine. The choice is up to you! Shooting deer over corn is not your normal family dinner conversation, and that is perfectly okay! Stick to killing hogs over corn and you are already benefitting Alabama’s ecosystem. So let’s give it some thought before we become naysayers, we might just be surprised!

By: Meaghan English

My name is Meaghan English, a wildlife specialist with TrueSouth. I graduated from Auburn University with a bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Ecology and Management and I have grown up with a passion for hunting. I knew from an early age that I was not only interested in the harvesting of wildlife, but I was also very interested in their biology and management. I decided that I not only wanted to be a wildlife enthusiast, I want to be an educated wildlife specialist. I will be using that grand education as a member of the TrueSouth team contributing wildlife blog articles!

My first hunting memory flashes back to when I was six or seven years old. Like any other Saturday during deer season, my dad had told my mom to get me ready because we were going hunting. Of course I was ecstatic! I was not ecstatic about the hair bow my mom made me wear with my camouflage (she wanted everyone to know I was in fact a fashionable girl). The entire way to Perdue Hill, Alabama, my dad told me that today would be the first day I would actually shoot my first deer and I knew I was ready. We pulled up to the camp, unloaded, and fed all the “camp cats”. Before we headed to our stand, I had spotted three kittens that I simply could not leave behind so I stuffed them in my jacket. After walking what seemed like five miles, we finally made it to the “Pressbox stand” (with my smuggled kittens) and sat down. Dad continuously pestered me to be quiet, but I wasn’t that worried about shooting a deer, I had kittens! Eventually, the sun began to sink behind the trees and a spike (without olfactory senses) entered the field. When it was safe to quietly move, dad handed me the gun and I handed him my three kittens. I slowly pulled the gun up and placed my cheek against the stock. Dad told me to breathe slowly and pull the trigger when I was ready. Sure enough, I pulled the trigger and the spike hit the ground. We high-fived, exchanged kittens again, and climbed down to see the kill. It certainly was not a wall hanger, but a huge chapter in my life was started that night. My dad and I still hunt together to this day and we practice quality deer management at all times.

My ultimate goal is to provide clients with a survey of flora and fauna that currently inhabit a specific tract of land and, if desired, how to properly manage that land for the species that are found there. All feedback is greatly appreciated and I look forward to working with you!

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