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!
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