North Dakota lawmakers weigh pros and cons of deer baiting

Published: Jan. 20, 2023 at 9:36 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - It’s an important issue for deer hunters: should they be allowed to leave bait for deer when they’re hunting? That’s the question posed to lawmakers Friday.

The answer to that question is complicated. Some hunters seem to think yes, some not so much.

For those not familiar with the ins and outs of deer hunting in the state, the state is divided into 38 hunting units, they’re about the size of a county, but they’re different geographical areas.

As of now, there are baiting restrictions in 20 out of the 38 hunting units. What HB 1151 would do is make it illegal for Game and Fish to ban baiting.

Hunting is near and dear to many North Dakotans.

“Here’s a picture of my son Ethan, he’s 11 years old. I think he hunted 22 days that year before he harvested that deer. And, unbelievable, I mean that day was awesome. But it wasn’t just that day, it was the whole journey to that,” said Randy Schepp from Velva.

And hunters like Randy Schepp believe if they can’t leave food out for deer while hunting, a generation of North Dakotans, like his 18-year-old daughter Whitney, will lose out on the opportunity to gain interest in the sport.

“Just this week, Monday night, Whitney out of the blue in the living room said, ‘Dad, if the Game and Fish takes away baiting I’m done, I’ll never pick up my bow again,’ and it’s disappointing,” said Randy.

But scientists from Game and Fish say limiting baiting is vital for limiting chronic wasting disease, and limiting CWD is vital to protecting deer populations. And they say the bill would hamstring their abilities to do so.

“The legislation removes one of the Department’s tools to maintain healthy deer herds to the benefit of all North Dakotans when faced with trying to manage a transmissible disease,” said Casey Anderson, Wildlife Division Chief with the North Dakota Game and Fish.

And Game and Fish representatives say failing to act against CWD could be devastating.

“In free-ranging animals, the likelihood of surviving for one year, if you have CWD is cut nearly in half. Virtually no animals, if you have CWD in the wild, survive past two years,” said Dr. Charlie Bahnson, wildlife veterinarian for Game and Fish.

Still, those in favor of HB 1151 said baiting bans need to stop.

“People really care about this, this is really important to people, to be able to use baiting, to hunt, and to continue their family heritage with the outdoors,” said Rep. Paul Thomas, R-Velva.

The committee didn’t take action on the bill on Friday. Other reasons people had for supporting the bill – for people with mobility issues, it’s just about the only way to hunt. Still others believe the science isn’t settled on the matter of CWD.

Related content:

House Bill 1151, baiting for deer