Bill would allow corn use statewide as bait
Harrisburg — Current regulations prohibiting baiting have long annoyed a few lawmakers, who say they have heard from constituents who say they have been unfairly cited by the Game Commission for violating them.
One of those legislators, Rep. Gary Haluska, D-Cambria, has decided to do something about it. He recently introduced HB 679, which would allow corn to be used as bait for all game species, statewide.
The measure would change Title 34, commonly referred to as the state’s Game Law, by amending Section 1, which provides for unlawful devices and methods. It adds this exception: “The provisions of subsection (a) shall not apply to any shelled or eared corn used as an enticement for wildlife or bait for game.”
Haluska contended that his bill will prevent more unwitting hunters being cited for game law violations.
“What the bill says, basically, is that corn is not bait,” he said. “The reason being, I have fought so many battles over the last 18 years with zealous game wardens.
“We have already had people in hunting areas who were arrested for hunting over bait because the farmer dumped corn silage in the field, and they didn’t know it.”
They were cited, Haluska explained, because it was processed silage; however, if it was standing corn, it is not bait.
“As soon as you process it in any way, shape or form, then it becomes bait,” he said. “Through the years I have had a number of people who didn’t even know that there was corn present.
“They were cited because other people had feeders in the vicinity, feeding over the winter, there was some residual left from the corn and they were arrested for hunting over bait. It’s ridiculous.”
The measure was cosigned by Reps. Mark Cohen, D-Philadelphia; Thomas Caltagirone, D-Berks; Robert Godshall, R-Berks; William Kortz, D-Allegheny; Mike Fleck, R-Huntingdon; Paul Clymer, R-Bucks; Garth Everett, R-Lycoming; Tim Mahoney, D-Fayette; Anthony Deluca, D-Allegheny; Dan Moul, R-Adams; and Thomas Murt, R-Montgomery.
Haluska said he was motivated now to introduce his bill because so many people are using corn in so many places to attract animals to their trail cameras. And later many hunt in the areas where their cameras captured images of turkeys, deer and bears.
“So what I’m saying is if you want to try to lure bears with doughnuts or food, then that’s baiting. But if it’s corn, then that’s not considered bait. To me, something that people used to feed game six months of the year should not be considered bait.”
HB 679 was referred to the House Game and Fisheries Committee on Feb. 12, little more than two weeks before chronic wasting disease was discovered in three wild deer in Blair and Bedford counties.
A source close to the Game and Fisheries Committee, who did not want to be identified to protect his employment, predicted that most House members and senators – if it gets to that chamber – would not support the bill in the face of the CWD finding, because corn congregates deer, and elk, and could contribute to the disease spreading.
Commissioner Dave Putnam, of Centre County, pointed out that his agency may outlaw deer feeding to try to slow the spread of CWD. Such action, would preclude the use of corn as bait.
“There certainly is some concern about feeding wildlife,” he said. “Currently, we are prohibiting the feeding of bears and elk, and certainly it will be considered when we are looking at regulations to control the spread of chronic wasting disease as we go forward with that.”
Also, baiting with corn violates the spirit of fair chase, Putnam noted.
“That has been a long-standing tradition in Pennsylvania,” he said. “We have only permitted baiting in places where we thought we had a problem trying to control animal populations and weren’t having any luck, such as the special regulations areas for deer.”
Both Putnam and Haluska mentioned that sportsmen’s clubs in the northern tier hand out tons of corn to feed wildlife each year.
“But they don’t give out corn until after the hunting season is over,” Putnam said. “I’m not sure how much of a difference concentrating animals by feeding would make in the southern part of the state.
“Most of the feeding and concentrating of deer that I see is in the northern part of the state where we have extended snow and people get 40 to 50 deer to come into to their feeding stations in the winter.”
Once chronic wasting disease becomes established, it will gradually spread throughout the state, Putnam predicted. Sooner or later, he admitted, commissioners are going to have to address the issue of whether they will continue to allow large groups of deer to be congregated by feeding them corn in places such as Potter County.
“By the same token you have deer congregating in cornfields now,” he said. “Before farmers harvest their corn we have fields that have pretty significant depredation of the crop by deer. So we are not going to be able to stop deer from aggregating, no matter what we do.”