Baiting Bill Passes Alabama House
Alabama sportsmen could eventually use bait legally to hunt deer and hogs if a bill passed by the state house of representatives becomes law.
By a vote of 69 to 18, the Alabama House of Representatives approved a bill that would let sportsmen use bait such as corn for hunting deer and feral hogs on private land. The bill sponsored by Rep. Jack Williams (R-Georgetown,) who represents House District 102 in Mobile County moved forward to the Alabama Senate.
“This bill would legalize hunting hogs and deer over bait on private lands in Alabama,” Williams explained. “This bill would not apply to turkeys or any other game, just whitetail deer and feral hogs. On March 1, it was discussed in committee in the Senate. Hopefully, it will be on the floor of the Senate in the first full week of March.”
Various elected officials sponsored several bills in the past to allow baiting for deer in Alabama. All of them failed. However, in 2013, the state changed the “supplemental feeding” regulations to allow sportsmen to put out food for deer as long as it remained more than 100 yards from their stands and not “in line of sight.” That means the person could not see the food or feeder while hunting because of a natural object like a row of trees or a terrain feature such as a hill or ravine blocking the view. If a hunter knowingly hunted less than 100 yards from or within sight of feed or a feeder, that person could be cited for baiting at the discretion of the investigating conservation officer.
This new bill would eliminate that 100-yard line-of-sight requirement. It proposes allowing people to distribute bait in feeders, troughs or some other device wherever they like and hunt near it on private lands. The law would apply to deer during the normal hunting season and to feral hogs all year long. All other seasons, limits and regulations will still apply.
“Our main objective is to handle the feral hog problem,” Williams advised. “Hogs are having a big impact on our state because of the damage they cause. It’s a lot easier to draw hogs in with bait and kill them. Most landowners like myself supplementally feed deer most of the year, but we must shut it down during deer season when the animals need it the most. In addition, the hogs are tearing up every feeder I have. We kill a large number of hogs every year, but any means we can, with dogs, with traps and by shooting them.”
However, the baiting privilege will come with a price tag if the bill becomes law as written. Under the bill, a person would be required to buy a $15 permit in order to hunt deer or hogs over bait. Anyone exempt from buying a hunting license would still be required to purchase the baiting permit if they choose to do so. In addition, all other pertinent hunting license and permit requirements will remain in effect.
“To hunt deer or hogs with bait, people would need to buy a $15 permit,” Williams said. “Of that money, a dollar will go to administrative fees to issue the permits and the rest will go to the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for conservation programs. The sale of permits is estimated to raise about $1.5 million to $2 million for the department.”
Like other previous baiting bills, this one provoked some lengthy discussion in the Alabama House before it passed overwhelmingly. Next, it must pass the full Senate and then the governor must sign it to make baiting legal under these rules.
“We had a long debate,” Williams said. “Some people oppose the bill because they want to hunt the traditional way. My rebuttal to that, people don’t have to hunt over bait if they don’t want to do it. They can still hunt the traditional ways on their own land if they wish. Personally, I feel really good that it will pass. I have a lot of support for the bill. The income will help the conservation department.”
Many other states, particular across the South, already allow baiting for deer and hogs on private land. In some states, hunting over bait became the most popular method. Some people object to hunting over bait because they say it concentrates deer where predators can more easily find them or deer in close proximity to each other could pass diseases to other animals. Others just prefer the more traditional methods.
“Alabama is actually one of the oddball states on that topic,” Williams said. “I’ve seen no effect on the deer population in these other states. Texas does a lot of baiting and they have more deer than any other state including some really big bucks. I’ve already talked to a lot of hunters who support it.”
By John N. Felsher