Hunters are up in arms about Arizona Game and Fish’s plans to start enforcing rules that bar the use of bait in taking big game, including any “edible or ingestible substances” to bring big game in close enough for a shot.
However, hunters can still use water, salt and salt-based bait, decoys, scents without cervid (deer) urine, non-ingestible lures and food plots “planted within accepted or regional agricultural guidelines.”
A Game and Fish release said, “The proposed restrictions on baiting would prohibit the use of edible or ingestible substances, such as placing corn or wildlife feed in the field to attract and take big game. Baiting can create unusually high concentrations of wildlife where disease can spread easily.”
The release cited concerns about Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), Bovine Tuberculosis and Brucellosis, all diseases that afflict wildlife or both wildlife and domestic livestock. Some wildlife diseases can also spread to humans.
To bait or not to bait
Animal and outdoor activists, enthusiasts and hunters have been debating baiting for years. Critics have called baiting “lazy” and “unethical,” but advocates argue baiting gives hunters a clean and therefore more humane shot. Either way, contaminated game bait can spread disease, although no one knows for sure how often that happens.
State officials say prevention is the key to maintaining a healthy big game population, despite the backlash from portions of the hunting community.
The debate in some cases centers on the inclusion of lures using deer and elk scent extracted from urine, which Game and Fish maintains poses a possible contamination problem.
The urine-based deer and elk lures are made from the deer and elk farming industry, with wildlife farms in places like Pennsylvania and West Virginia, both states well known for their battles with CWD.
Regulations of those operations include monitoring, quarantine and euthanasia of contaminated animals, but the risk remains that a contaminated lure could spread the disease to a disease-free state like Arizona.
In states already battling CWD, common measures include strict quarantines of herds and surrounding areas and a ban on baiting.
Official reports indicate these diseases pass easily through bait stations, which attract deer from great distances and increase social contact and contagion.
Arizona Game and Fish tested more than 1,200 harvested deer in their last testing season, using samples provided by hunters across the state. None of the most feared and damaging disease showed up in those samples.
Rim Country relies heavily on the hunting industry and an infection of the local herds could deliver a damaging blow to the economy, not to mention deer and elk herd populations.
The state’s roughly 135,000 hunters spend about $130 million annually on gear and trips, according to an Arizona State University study commissioned by the Game and Fish Department.
For more information on the renewed emphasis on enforcing the ban on baiting go to azgfd.gov or give them a call at (602) 942-3000 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
The proposed amendments taking place this month have been open for public input since September of last year.