Want to venture a guess about how many tons of corn will be sold in the weeks prior to the opening day of deer season? Some say it’s going to be shining yellow-acorn gold in the south Georgia deer woods this fall. However, others say so many hunters were already feeding that things won’t change very much.
Love it, hate it or maybe you’re like many who are simply tired of the debate, a new baiting law was passed last legislative session. Hunting over or near food with no distance requirement — baiting — is now legal for deer and hog hunters in the Southern Zone and for hog hunters in the Northern Zone. The new law went into effect July 1. If you have hogs, which can be hunted year-round, you can now hunt over a feeder.
DNR rangers now face a challenge of how to enforce the deer-baiting law in the Northern Zone. In half of the state, legislators legalized hunting hogs over feed with no distance requirement, yet for deer, a hunter must still be 200 yards and out of sight of feed.
The burden of proof to make a deer-baiting case in the Northern Zone is on the law-enforcement ranger.
“It’s not going to be easy,” said Lt. Col. Jeff Weaver, the assistant chief of WRD Law Enforcement. “It’ll be those instances where you have good information and a good investigation.
“It’s going to be totally different. It will be new to us, too,” Jeff said about the changes in the baiting laws.
In south Georgia, Jeff said rangers will focus on other violations now that baiting for deer is legal.
“We have a lot to do. There are a lot of vacant areas (with no law-enforcement rangers) because of budget cuts. This will allow us to focus a lot of attention on private landowner issues — trespassing, night deer hunting, things like that,” Jeff said.
The new law addresses deer and hog hunting near food sources placed in the woods, but it is still against the law to hunt other game animals and birds “upon, over, around, or near any place where any corn, wheat, or other grains, salts, apples, or other feed or bait has been placed, exposed, deposited, distributed, or scattered so as to constitute a lure, attraction, or enticement to such game animals or game birds. It shall also be unlawful to hunt any game animal or game bird upon, over, around, or near any such place for a period of 10 days following complete removal of all such feed or bait.”
Putting out any feed or bait and hunting any game animal, including deer or feral hogs, over feed or bait is still against the law on Wildlife Management Area (WMA) property or other state or federal lands.
The new hunting regulations read: “In the Southern Deer Zone, deer may be hunted upon, around, over or near any feed or bait on private lands provided such person has written permission of the landowner. The placing of any feed or bait and the hunting of deer over such feed or bait on any state or federal lands is prohibited."
For Southern Zone hunters, the new law states that “any such lure or attraction or enticement shall not cause hunting on any adjoining property to be prohibited,” which means a dove hunter couldn’t be charged with hunting over bait if the adjacent landowner has a feeding station for deer or hogs.
“In the Northern Deer Zone, it is unlawful to hunt deer upon, around, over or near any feed or bait when the hunter is less than 200 yards away or within sight of such feed or bait. Any such feed shall not be placed in a manner as to cause hunting on an adjacent property to be prohibited. The placing of any feed or bait and the hunting of deer over such feed or bait on any state or federal lands is prohibited.
“Feral hogs may be hunted upon, around, over or near any feed or bait on private lands year-round provided that any such feed or bait is not placed within 50 yards of any property ownership boundary. Any such feed or bait shall not be placed in a manner as to cause hunting on an adjacent property to be prohibited.”