In some parts of the country, baiting is synonymous with hunting. In others, hunters believe that if you’re using bait, it means you’re fishing!
Baiting is an extremely controversial issue among hunters. There are merits on both sides, and that debate is for another day, it can’t be denied that baiting works.
There are dozens, possibly hundreds, of products on the market aimed at getting deer underneath your tree stand. They all work, to varying degrees of efficacy, but here are some tips and tricks to make them all work a little better this coming season.
If anyone says that baiting isn’t effective, they don’t know what they’re talking about. But if baiting were completely effective, as many hunters say, it would also be illegal everywhere.
Yes, it can be difficult to kill a mature buck over an artificial food source but that doesn’t mean you can’t fill tags for the freezer with a pile of corn or a tub of peanut butter.
All local laws should be followed when baiting. That includes methods, seasons, species, distances, the physical amount, and type of bait that you’re allowed to use, everything regarding your baiting should be completely aboveboard and legal.
In some areas of the country, game wardens won’t even check sites that are completely illegal. Don’t be that guy!
This isn’t a moral preening, just a word to the wise: in areas that baiting has been made illegal, it has been made illegal because it is either too effective or spread diseases among deer. EHD and CWD can both be transmitted via bait sites.
Even if it’s legal in your area, you may want to use caution before baiting. In some cases, the spread of disease can be minimized through baiting methods but not completely eliminated.
The ability to conduct ourselves ethical hunters and follow all game laws, regardless of their efficacy or your morality, is going to determine whether or not we keep our rights as hunters.
Anti-hunting organizations are looking for any and every excuse to take our rights away, and arrest records and citation numbers from hunters who don’t follow the law are excellent ammunition to use against us. Don’t give them that ammunition.
That being said, here are seven tried-and-true methods for baiting deer and other species that have been bought and paid for with experience in the field.
Top 7 Baiting Tips & Tricks
Target Your Bait
Taylor the type of bait that you are broadcasting to the type of species you are targeting. It is very rare to have multiple species of the big game using the same bait site. Once a predator or a hog spread their scent all over bait site, it is unlikely that deer frequented the area.
Look for ways to tailor the type of bait you are using to the species that you are targeting. This can mean using sour corn for hogs, oat bran for deer, or specially made predator concoctions and fryer grease for bears.
Try not to mix bait types that will draw different species. Ingredients like butter and molasses work great but aren’t targeted to a single species and can give you mixed results.
Steak Out Your Feeders
If you live in an area where hogs or bears are prevalent, take extra steps to secure your bait sites. This can mean reinforcing the fences of your traps or staking down your feeder as securely as possible.
When it comes to hogs, the problem isn’t necessarily the hogs knocking the feeder completely over by force, but those wallowing and digging around the base of the feeder causing the ground to turn into a quagmire and having the theater collapse under its weight.
In situations like these, it is best to hang feeders on a sturdy tree limb ( see our list of top hanging deer feeders here ) than try to construct a freestanding bait site.
Use Cameras and Monitoring Equipment
To maximize your effort in the woods, use some sort of monitoring equipment to judge how many animals, and the quality of those animals, are using your bait site.
It can be as simple as raking out and smoothing the area around your bait site that you can do a track survey and is high-tech as getting a real-time cellular camera deployed onto a tree that sends you pictures in real time via your cell phone.
Old school methods can work just as well as high-tech ones and are cheaper with less equipment for you to pack into the field.
Hunt the Trails
If you’re looking to kill a mature animal over bait site, specifically a mature buck, put the trails that the deer or species have established going to and from the feeder.
Rarely will you be successful at killing a mature buck directly over a bait site, unless you’re in an area with sparse food that forces the deer to concentrate on your bait.
Instead, back up a few hundred yards away from the bait site and hunt a staging area or betting area that leads directly to your bait site. This is especially deadly during the rut!
Refill in The Rain
Try and make trips out your feeder to refill it during the rain. Not only are you less likely to bump deer and other animals using your bait site, but the rain and wind will also keep your scent from permeating the area too heavily.
Get in and get out under the rain and you will have less scent in the area and bucks will be more likely to frequent the bait site. Especially during daylight hours, the deer will remember when you were there and will associate daytime with a hunter’s scent.
Don’t Use Corn in The Winter
As tempting as it can be, avoid using corn and other sugar crops during a heavy winter. The gut flora that a deer develops to help digest and break down the fiber and cellulose inside corn and other cereal crops die during the winter when deer turns to other food sources.
If the deer gorge themselves on a serial crop without this critical gut flora, the result can be swelling in the stomach that eventually kills the deer.
It can be difficult to not feed deer during the winter, especially when you see yearlings going hungry, but it is dangerous to do this. Instead, look for scent-based baits or use ingredients like peanut butter or molasses.
Clean Up When You’re Finished
At the end of the season when the baiting is over, clean up your mess. Don’t leave plastic bags in the woods, don’t leave metal poles from your feeder in the woods, take everything with you that you brought into the woods.
Try not to reuse bait sites from year to year unless you own land. Make every effort to return the woods the way they were before you got there. If you perennially use the same bait site for years you can artificially concentrate the local deer herd onto your property.
It sounds great at first until EHD or CWD comes to your county and you help spread it to the entire state.
If you are going to be baiting, be responsible. Try and use methods that minimize the spread of disease, and hunt responsibly and ethically. When in doubt, follow QDMA protocols for age structure and herd composition, if given a choice. Above all else, enjoy your time in the woods.
There’s nothing quite like hunting or taking a youngster for their first hunt. Baiting can keep hunters in the woods for longer and can help with the odds of introducing a young hunter to our ranks.
Baiting has its time and its place, but it’s up to every hunter to make sure they know not just when and where, but also how to use it responsibly.