Fair game or a few bad apples? Utah officials weigh whether to regulate baiting big game

Stock image, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah wildlife officials are considering whether hunters should be allowed to use bait to lure big game such as elk and deer, a practice which has become popular among bow hunters despite criticism.

The state Division of Wildlife Resources is reviewing whether to regulate baiting, The Salt Lake Tribune reports.

It has become increasingly commonplace during the hunting season to see apples or other bait in the Utah wilderness, where it has proved effective in luring mule deer toward concealed hunters. Baiting has become especially popular among bowhunters in Southern Utah.

Other Western states restrict or prohibit baiting, while some Midwest states permit baiting big game.

According to hunters and guides who oppose the practice, baiting takes away from the sport of stalking wild game and does not follow the Western hunting tradition of a fair chase principle.

“No one is going to tell you they shot a deer over bait,” said guide Tim Pilling. “Baiting is making bowhunting easy. It’s supposed to be hard.”

They also worry it could spread infectious diseases in deer herds.

“We have CWD (chronic wasting disease) in the state,” said hunter Steve Sorensen, a member of the wildlife division’s mule deer committee. “It’s spread by saliva and nose-to-nose contact. A deer is going to leave saliva on an apple.”

Baiting also congregates deer in unnatural ways, increasing the chance of disease spreading, said wildlife biologist Brock McMillan, who also serves on the state committee.

“The way mule deer roam, their home range is 150 miles,” McMillan said. “When you manipulate that with baiting, it changes the natural way they use the landscape.”

Sorensen called baiting “unethical.”

“A lot of big mature bucks get killed, and the only reason is because of apples,” he said.


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