Friday, Dec 13, 2013
Deer Baiting on the Radar of Local Conservation Officers
WILLIAMSON CO. -- Wildlife officers step up patrols in southern Illinois to crack down on hunters illegally attracting deer.
State and federal conservation police say they've seen a spike in deer baiting the past couple years. So this season, they're keeping a closer eye on hunters to discourage a practice that can end up hurting the deer herd.
"We want everybody to be safe out there, but we also want everybody to be ethical," said Federal Wildlife Officer Dustin Schelling.
Whether you're fishing on the lake, or hunting in the woods, local conservation officers are out and about checking to make sure you're doing it legally.
"Basically I'm just looking for any type of bait," said Schelling as he searched Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge.
Schelling spends his days patroling Crab Orchard's 44,000 acres. This hunting season, he says he's keeping a closer eye out for deer baiting.
"You're stealing from the resource but you're also stealing from the public, other hunters out there. Other ethical hunters who are out there," he added.
Some hunters use bait like corn, minerals, salt blocks, or even apples to lure animals for harvesting. "Some hunters have a smorgasboard, they have all of them," said Conservation Officer Phil Boston, with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Boston insists, baiting deer is not only cheating, it endangers the entire deer population. "If they use the same eating area, they can spread diseases," he said.
Baiting also puts deer under the influence of a controlled environment, causing them to lose their survival instincts.
"Their sole purpose when they get out of their bedding area is just to go to that bait, eat, take the mineral or whatever it is and they kind of lose sight of everything else around them," explained Schelling.
Whether it's bait placement, or hunting over it, Boston says if and when a hunter is caught in the act they'll likely face more than a misdemeanor.
"You could be punished up to 6 months in the county jail, fines could be up to $1,500, it can result in forfeiture of all equipment used, including vehicles, weapons, and also, the loss of your hunting privilege," said Boston.
Officials add, more intense patrols will be taking place on federal, state, and private land throughout the entire season.
If you suspect someone is baiting deer or violating other hunting laws, you can call the Illinois Department of Natural Resources tip line at 1-877-2-DNR-LAW.
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