boone and crockett club position statementBAITING
Effective Date: August 1, 2019
Baiting is a broad term that generally refers to the use of natural or unnatural food attractants placed in a specific location by hunters to attract and draw in a targeted game species for harvest. Though considered a longstanding and traditional hunting method in many states and provinces, baiting has become increasingly misunderstood and controversial.
Hunting (regardless of the method used) is the primary mechanism by which state and provincial wildlife agencies manage the populations of game species. Game species are hunted across a broad spectrum of terrain and conditions, including open areas where game is more easily located, deep forests where animals are hard to find, lands densely populated by people, and remote, uninhabited areas where game roams over vast distances. These conditions all require different hunting methods and skills in order for sportsmen to be successful. To determine what methods should be legal in their jurisdiction, wildlife agencies consider a variety of factors, including terrain, conditions, hunting traditions, hunting opportunity and species behavior, balanced against science-based objectives for game population management.
Game management objectives primarily focus on maintaining healthy, sustainable, and socially acceptable populations. In situations where hunter harvest may be low and wildlife populations are higher than what the land can sustain, managers may need to reduce animal numbers, and baiting is one option they may allow hunters to employ. Reductions are also sometimes necessary to mitigate the spread of disease within a wildlife population, or when game animals damage property, create safety concerns for people, or negatively impact other wildlife.
One of the objections to baiting is that it can habituate animals to an unnatural food source, creating more conflicts with people. Feeding wildlife in general can also concentrate normally free-ranging animals, leading to the spread of disease (such as CWD in whitetail deer). Claims that game laws are somehow arbitrary arise when one state allows baiting for a particular species while a neighboring state prohibits this hunting method for the same species.
The most frequent criticism is that baiting violates the principles of Fair Chase®, the code of hunting conduct popularized by the Boone and Crockett Club over a century ago. This argument has led many people to conclude that baiting should be illegal regardless of the circumstances. The Club believes baiting, especially as it relates to wildlife management and Fair Chase, should be better understood before it can be properly judged.
The Boone and Crockett Club acknowledges that baiting is a proven method to manage the population density of certain species in certain areas and supports the authority of wildlife agencies to determine if baiting is allowed in their jurisdictions. The many decades of decision-making by state, provincial, and tribal wildlife authorities, based on regional needs and local traditions, have led to the most successful system of wildlife management in the world.
Baiting can increase hunter success by helping them to locate game, especially nocturnal species and game that inhabits a continuous, dense understory that make successful harvest numbers difficult to achieve. Baiting also allows a hunter to be more selective as it permits them to conduct a closer inspection of an animal to determine its age and sex prior harvest. This is particularly important where it is discouraged or illegal to take young animals or females with young of a species (such as black and grizzly bear) where the sex and age is not as easily discernable as with other species.
Once the decision has been made that baiting is legal, whether to use this method or not is a matter of personal choice. The Club defines Fair Chase as “the ethical, sportsmanlike, and lawful pursuit and taking of any free-ranging wild, big game animal in a manner that does not give the hunter an improper or unfair advantage over the game animals.” This definition is based on the meaning of “fair” that relates to legitimate, genuine, or appropriate given the circumstances. Where an increased harvest of a particular species needs to occur, or where positive identification of size or sex is a legal requirement, baiting is “appropriate given the circumstances” and would not violate Fair Chase principles.
Since Fair Chase is more a matter of the “spirit of the hunt” than a set of written rules, views on baiting will vary from one person to the next. Fair Chase can also be influenced by local customs and traditions. How a person was taught to hunt can affect their sense of what is an ethical hunting method. For some, baiting meets these requirements and presents a unique set of challenges. Others may find it does not align with their personal value system and will not provide the experience they seek. If a person decides baiting is not for them, the Club believes they should still respect another’s right to legally hunt that way.
Outside of what hunting laws provide concerning the various species of game being hunted and managed, there is no simple answer to the question about baiting being right or wrong. It is the Club’s policy that big game trophies taken with the aid of bait are eligible for entry and listing in the Boone and Crockett Club’s Records of North American Big Game program so long as the practice is legal in the state or province where the trophy was taken, and other entry requirements are met.
The Club has also found that hunting over or near agricultural fields does not constitute baiting. Crops that provide food for people, livestock, or to produce other goods, tend to have an ancillary effect of providing food and cover for wildlife. Hunters may be able to find game more easily in those locations, but this is not considered to be a violation of Fair Chase. If a person plants crops specifically to attract a certain game species (often referred to as food plots) for hunting purposes, the Club maintains it is up to each wildlife agency to determine if such actions are legal, or considered baiting.
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