Baiting Deer: Good or Bad?

Drawing in deer with a big pile of bait by your stand might be effective, but should you really do it?

It’s a moot point for many hunters, since the practice is now illegal in more states than not. And of the 22 states where baiting deer is allowed, eight restrict it to certain areas within state lines.

With the rampant spread of CWD in recent years, concerns that baiting may make this problem far worse have driven a lot of biologists and hunters to shy away from the tactic, even in states where it’s still allowed.

But probably the biggest long-standing argument against baiting is that it’s cheating. While some bowhunters scout hard, play the wind, and ambush when the time is right, others simply throw out hundreds of pounds of corn and attractants then kill the first thing that comes in. It just doesn’t seem quite right. 

Although the National Deer Association recognizes some potential benefits to baiting in the form of aiding in off-season inventory, meeting harvest goals in high-density areas, keeping the interest of newly recruited hunters, and helping wildlife professionals with research, the organization cites several more disadvantages.

  • By increasing deer density around the bait site, it could spread 12 different diseases, including CWD and tuberculosis.
  • It can decrease the size of deer’s home range, negatively impacting native vegetation and habitat.
  • It can decrease daytime movement and increase nocturnal activity.
  • It can have a negative impact on other species and increase predation around bait sites.
  • It can artificially increase the species’ carrying capacity, which is especially problematic when bait is available in-season only. 
  • Even where it’s legal, whether or not it’s fair chase for hunting is up for debate.

As bowhunters, we relish the challenge. So why spoil the sport of it by baiting? And should we really be sacrificing the future of the species to notch a tag or two? Just skip the bait. 

19 thoughts on “Baiting Deer: Good or Bad?”

  1. In Iowa, baiting isn’t legal. But, I see the stacks of deer blocks ,rocks and bags of “minerals” disappear off the shelves each fall.

    Quite a few hunters plant food plots and hunt over them. This is not considered using bait in Iowa.

    For me. If it ‘s legal to use bait in your state, go for it. The state biologists know the pros and cons.

    Seems like I read somewhere that dogs are used to hunt deer. Not to track a wounded deer but like a rabbit hunting beagle. Can’t remember in which state(s) . That is the way they have always hunted.

    Whatever is S O P in your state.

    Hit where you look not look where you hit.

    • rk,

      Here in Ontario baiting and dogs are legal.

      I can see the use of bait piles as many hunters (novice and veteran alike) don’t have the the time or skill to get within their 15 to 20 yard effective bow range. It is the only way they can participate in the archery season. Presumably, they will abandon the practice once their experience improves.

      Having deer come into bait doesn’t automatically mean venison in the freezer, the hunter still has to make the shot. I see it the same as using electronics for fishing… no guarantees 🙂

      Dogs are another thing though – love them but I totally disagree with their use for deer hunting.

      I don’t see driving deer with dogs as “fair chase” has the hunters aren’t hunting the deer, the dogs are. IMHO, this type of hunting is on par with “sport fishing” with a net and should not be allowed.

      Locally, the dog hunters have a habit of releasing their pack to drive deer off of private property where the don’t have permission to hunt. The frequent drives disrupt the normal deer movements making it difficult for all the other hunters.

      Don’t like that many of these hunting dogs (who are treated as work animals) are poorly trained and spend 50 weeks out of the year chained up.

      Sorry to rant – obviously a sensitive subject.


      • “…dogs (who are treated as work animals) are poorly trained and spend 50 weeks out of the year chained up.”
        That’s a pet peeve of mine, too. A year ago, a dog showed up on our property; I found him sleeping in a culvert; he was thirsty, starving, and covered in wounds. The vet said he’s an American Bulldog mix, and that he was likely a bait dog for a dog-fighting ring. He only weighed 40 pounds when he got here, but he’s well-fed and filled out to 70 pounds now. We can’t make up for his first two years of his life, which must have been awful; but “Reno” (as my wife named him) is now living a happy life here; he’s the sweetest most loving dog, and as you can see in the pic where he’s at my wife’s feet, he is a “Mommy-snuggin’ doggie” (he just dotes on my wife). He’s now getting to do all the things he didn’t get to do as a pup; it’s great to see him rolling around and playing; but his favorite thing is to hang out on the front porch with “the big dogs” (us). 🙂

        • rki I’m with you on that; and Reno’s no hunting dog; he’s afraid of even turtles; when he saw this one in “his” territory, he jumped back 5 feet when it stuck its head out, and he wouldn’t stop moaning till I took it away and put it in the pond. 🙂

          • We had a dachshun that would go nose to nose with a big ol coon for hours but if a cat even looked at him funny, he would scream like a six year old and head for the porch.

  2. The Bow Bully,
    While we don’t bait them, with a half-acre pond and lots of various vegetation around it, there are does feeding here all year round. I only mow around the house, and another area for Reno to play, about 3 acres total; the other 12 acres is half pine forest and half hardwood forest, with a mile of trails cut through it for my wife’s golf cart, so she can cruise around and enjoy the woods; and the does, of course, use these trails to get around as well.
    Thinking back to your earlier post on poachers reminded me that our air conditioner repairman is a bowhunter, who correctly ASKED permission to hunt our property this fall. He is a meat hunter, but he likes to hunt with “stick and string.” I told him he could hunt here, but to let me know ahead of time when he’d be here (to ensure I’d not be shooting any airguns in his direction =>); and further, I said he could only hunt bucks, as the does are here all the time, and have little fear of us, so it wouldn’t be sporting at all; it would be more like shooting someone’s pet.
    He was agreeable to these conditions, and said the thing he cared about the most was just to have a chance to be out in the woods with his bow (as he has no land per se) I can understand; I’m out in the woods everyday, and it makes me happy. 🙂
    Keep up the good work,
    P.S. Here’s a doe right in the backyard that let me get within 30 feet of her.
    She’s right in front of the cat-feeding station.

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