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Gretchen
GRETCHEN
STEELE

Through the Lens

Is the Benefit Worth the Risk?

Sun, April 15, 2018

I have a sign on my desk that says, “BANG HEAD HERE” – it serves a good purpose on many days when I simply left dumbfounded, open mouthed, and frustrated with all sorts of different things.  My most recent episode of frustration came from livestreaming the Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on SB2493 (AKA the deer feeding bill) . The bill was passed out committee with the stipulation that would return to committee after some refinement.
In a nutshell, SB2493 simply adds one small sentence to the Wildlife code:
“A person may supplementally feed deer with items otherwise prohibited by this Section when not in active deer hunting season which shall be implemented by the Department by rule.”

The otherwise prohibited items that are referred to are:
“any material, whether liquid or solid, including food, salt, minerals, and other products, except pure water, that can be ingested, placed, or scattered in such a manner as to attract or lure white-tailed deer.” (emphasis added)

This sounds simple enough, and certainly there are many proponents for this legislation.  After all, why wouldn’t we want to feed our deer herd? Grow even bigger bucks, bigger racks? My gosh – don’t we want to be able to put out the latest and greatest supplements and feeds to insure we have the healthiest herd ever?

This is pretty much what the proponents are shouting here, there, and yon.  Along with that shouting comes a bit of misinformation as well. Largely in part tanks to social media and all the deer nutrition experts that have popped up also from here, there, and yon.

Once piece of widely shared misinformation is that this “feeding” will be allowed on private property only. Hmmm, I don’t see that in the current language of the bill or the language that was part of the bill presented in committee.

Minor detail I suppose some would say, but good grief if you are going to campaign for the passage of a bill, at least get the language right. .

But what really bothered me was the overall attitude that the couple of “experts” trotted in to explain why our whole policy is wrong didn’t really specifically cite any of the “studies” they kept referring to.

It took a fair amount of searching and researching for me to even find the studies that I think they might have been referring to. 

The next verse of that song is that the conclusions in the multitude of studies that I did find weren’t exactly as presented to the ag committee.

Don’t be fooled my friends. Do you really believe this is being pushed as truly altruistic bill to improve the health of the herd?  It’s my opinion that this bill is more of method to market and sell these very supplemental products that are currently banned from use Illinois and to continue the push to build and engineer bigger deer, bigger racks and bigger bank accounts for more than just a few. Additionally, I see this a method to pave the way so to speak to legalize baiting.  Once again, it’s not about the deer, it’s about the dollars.

During the hearing it was noted the there were witness slips from 116 proponents, and 91 opponents. A quick perusal of the witness slips filed made that assumption even more clear. The proponents were heavily weighted towards those in the whitetail industries; outfitters, mineral and supplement producers, etc. While those opposing the measure were much more heavily weighted to those who favor wildlife, biologists, scientists.

Proponents have launched an effective campaign laced with visions of big bucks dancing through the myriad of reasons why supplemental feeding should be allowed. Seriously, it’s kind of turned into an “It’s about the health of the herd” mantra somewhat like that of the over used “It’s for the children” that so many causes employ.  But by golly if it will make deer healthier, and the additional claim that supplemental feeding of just the right product could prevent CWD and EHD (please someone, PLEASE give me the citation for that claim!) has hunters, outfitters, and supplement producers jumping on the bandwagon.

I see too many negatives to supplemental feeding in Illinois for this to even be logically considered by our legislators. I would be much more accepting if rather than just blindly allowing it via legislation, our legislators increased funding and resources to allow our DNR to effectively perform some controlled and scientific studies regarding the effect of supplemental feeding and/or baiting.

First and foremost, let’s look at CWD and other disease transmission. While the proponents will loudly proclaim there’s no correlation between feeding and baiting and disease transmission, I am certainly having a difficult time finding any data that outright states that as a conclusion of any of the CWD or other disease transmission studies. In fact, in most cases, the first action taken when CWD is discovered in an area is to ban feeding and baiting (if it is a state that allows either).

This is a good chart of CWD regs across the board by state. Take a long hard look at the regs concerning feeding and baiting. That’s information not exactly what I heard from some of the proponents during the hearing.  Additionally, deer could be lured away from CWD management areas hindering the current IL CWD management efforts.

I could write volumes filled with science terms, tables, gobbledygook and citations about CWD transmission. For now, I will spare you that.

Secondly, there are other negative factors associated with feeding wild deer.


Deer become habituated to humans, they may develop a certain amount of dependency on the supplemental feeding.

Not all supplements are created equal, and who will oversee and develop regulations regarding the content of these supplements and what can and can’t be used. Let’s face it throwing out a pile of corn is not going to do much for “improving the health and nutrition of the herd”.  Do we even have any data that suggests deer in IL are suffering from any specific nutritional deficiencies and even need our help in that arena? Under the current language of the bill nothing specifies what can be fed. While the proponents are fighting for the use of mineral and vitamin supplements, my suspicion is given the cost, many will just throw out corn, pumpkins, apples etc. 


Deer feeding sites also attract unwanted predators, rodents, and may artificially alter the predator/prey balance.

Despite any rules that could be made regarding when feeds must be removed prior to hunting season, we all know that the habituated deer will continue to return to that same area looking for food.  This could be just another method to improve harvest and take rates. Sure, that corn pile was gone 10 days before season opened, but do you really think the deer will stop returning that quickly?

What about feeding in urban areas? I can see it now…. the daily parade of deer across busy urban roads as they trot off to Joe’s house because boy howdy, there’s a buffet in his back yard. Joe’s neighbor who ends up with collateral damage from the increase deer traffic and snacking on his thousands of dollars’ worth of landscaping may not be quite so enamored of said deer. Joe’s other neighbor who just totaled his new Chevy after hitting part of the deer parade likely won’t be too thrilled either.

Lastly, many of the “nutritional” arguments refer to either livestock or captive herds.  Whitetail deer in Illinois are a valuable natural resource and WILDLIFE – not livestock.

Here’s a link to some of the studies and conclusions that was put together by Wisconsin DNR that’s worth giving a look.

Ultimately my fear is that should this pass, it puts IDNR into the unenviable position of having to issue additional and more regulations, finding ways to fund additional studies, monitoring, increased enforcement efforts on the part of the CPO’s, etc.  We are still short on biologists, IDNR is still massively underfunded, we are still short CPO’s, so sure,  let’s just add more to their workload why don’t we?

Don’t you think it’s more important to address natural resources regulations through science and natural resource experts rather than public opinion or political maneuvering to benefit a select few?

I know full well this is hot button topic – so I have a request if you are going to comment, keep it clean, keep it respectful of others. Let’s all try to learn from this proposed legislation rather become increasingly divided.

Comments

The article hits the nail on the head. I go to the sport stores and the feed is there…Someone is buying. So I figure it’s being done on the sly now. If the DNR makes it legal preseason the sales will go thru the roof. I can see 2yrs down the road the DNR will change it to any time. The CWD is a issue by it’s self. Truly a shame when money, greed, and no common sense is the reason to propose such a bill.

Posted by deer1 on April 15

Great article Gretchen! Spot on….
The supports of SB2493 are mostly people in the Deer hunting industry, that are trying to find more ways to make more money off of the IL deerherd.
It is people looking for an easy way to pour money on the ground to bring in more & hopefully bigger deer. They are looking for the easy button to bring in big buck & make more money any way they can.
They are all about having a contest to see who can pour the most deer food/$$$$$$ on the ground to bring in the most deer.
A lot of them can not wait to start cashing in this new high dollar game.
I also guarantee this stepping stone legislation, to in-season baiting AND even more money to be made.
This bill will not help the IL deer herd.
Our IDNR & our biologist, oppose this bill, for lots of good reasons !!!

Posted by Lynn on April 15

Chapin Rose is NO friend of wildlife or the average hunter.

Posted by riverrat47 on April 15

To bait, or not to bait, and to feed, or not to feed are questions that the sportsmen/women of Illinois have struggled with for many years. I grew up deer hunting in a state that allowed feeding, and what many would call baiting, and seen many advantages to both.
I have also hunted for several years now in Illinois, and I have never seen the need for baiting here, but could see the advantages to supplemental feeding, especially late winter. Just how good does it do a fella to put out food in late October, only to have deer walk through stand corn before they pass under your stand ??  tongue rolleye I worked for a feed company for many years , and seen many hunter come in and buy mineral blocks. We lived in cow country, so every rancher had mineral out, LOL The deer had a choice of mineral at any time they wanted, and hunters thought that by putting mineral blocks out the deer would just come running, not ! I seen mineral blocks set out in some place for over three years, just laughable.
I don’t fully agree that supplemental feed will spread CWD, more studies need done in regards to that. I ‘m not saying it spreads it, but I would also like to know for sure, let the science tell us. The baiting issue has several advantages that many like to overlook. Yes I get that some see it as a moral fair chase issue, and for those that feel that way I understand completely.
I like the ability of selective harvest, and I have used many of my own personal tags to selectively harvest deer that had health issues on many occasions. I was able to do this more effectively by using bait to present the opportunity to harvest those inferior individual deer. I enjoyed the ability to selective harvest by sex, not that I don’t have that ability now, but baiting offered a greater opportunity at times to make that selection. Baiting allowed me to see problems deer had much sooner, thus identifying problem within certain deer sooner, and to monitor the overall health of the deer upon a property.

In Illinois we have much smaller sizes of hunting properties, or habitat, and I think many fear that baiting will draw deer into select areas, and thus shut out many other hunters. I think this is the real root of the issue with baiting, or supplemental feeding for many outdoorsmen/women in Illinois. I know this feeding, or baiting is not right for every property, and in the end the landowner has to know if its right for their property, and the resources they have upon it.

Yes, that’s clear as mud.  LOL

RTT

Posted by Ringtailtrapper on April 15

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