Higher penalties sought for illegal deer baiting

By Tim Eisele Correspondent

Stevens Point, Wis. — If leaders on outdoors issues in the
Legislature won’t ban deer feeding and baiting, then they should at
least consider higher fines and longer license revocations for
violators, according to Steve Oestreicher, Conservation Congress
chairman.

Oestreicher proposed increasing the fine for illegal baiting
from $523 to $2,000. He also said the violation should carry a
five-year revocation of hunting, fishing, and trapping
licenses.

Oestreicher offered his idea as a proposed Conservation Congress
advisory question for the April 10 spring hearings. He broached the
subject during the Conservation Congress Executive Council meeting
Jan. 6 in Stevens Point.

At the same meeting, the Conservation Congress Big Game Study
Committee proposed two more deer questions related to baiting and
feeding:

  • Should deer baiting be banned year-round statewide?
  • Should deer feeding be banned year-round statewide?

The Executive Council approved all three advisory questions
regarding baiting and feeding of deer, but not without some debate.
The questions will advance to the April 10 spring hearing
agenda.

Big Game Study Committee co-chairman Joe Caputo, of Madison,
presented the two questions on banning deer feeding and baiting. He
said Big Game Study Committee members believed these are two
different issues and wanted to keep the questions separate.

Caputo said the question comes down to where the Conservation
Congress stands on the issue.

“We are obligated to look at deer baiting not only from a law
enforcement standpoint, but also how we are teaching our youth to
hunt,” Caputo said. “Stopping baiting is within our grasp, and we
have the ability to regulate it and have an obligation to do it.
The congress needs to take a stand.”

There already will be debate on deer baiting and feeding before
this question comes up at April 10 hearings, because the Natural
Resources Board will ask an advisory question about banning deer
baiting and feeding statewide 10 days before and during the
nine-day gun deer season. That idea came from retiring NRB member
Herb Behnke, who offered the idea to promote deer movement during
hunting season shooting hours, and to more evenly distribute deer
across the landscape.

Oestreicher told council members that from past questions on
baiting and feeding, it is known that the public is split on the
issue. Attitudes, however, may change. It’s thought that a lot of
trophy bucks are being illegally shot after dark with the use of
bait.

Oestreicher said he believes the Legislature doesn’t want to
change the current law, but it might consider increased penalties
so that if a hunter exceeds the 2-gallon limit on bait, that hunter
will be fined $2,000 and lose all hunting and fishing privileges
for five years.

On feeding, he suggested banning it from Sept. 1 to Jan. 1.

“If you ban baiting, the bow kill will probably drop a minimum
of 40 percent,” Oestreicher predicted. “I honestly believe this
proposal has a very good chance of passing in the Legislature, and
the excessive bait piles will stop.”

Mark Noll, co-chairman of the Big Game Committee, and Caputo
both said public input is vital.

“We really want to find out how the people feel,” Noll said.

Randy Stark, DNR chief conservation warden, noted that any fine
is left up to the discretion of a judge, and if a case of using
more bait or feed than is allowed comes to court on the heels of a
serious beating or personal injury case, the fine for using too
much bait could well be reduced.

After adopting the proposal by the Big Game Committee to add the
two “ban” questions on the questionnaire, the Executive Council
also unanimously added Oestreicher’s suggested question to the
spring hearing agenda.

That question will ask whether the feeding of deer should be
banned from Sept. 1 to Jan. 1, and whether the fine for illegal
baiting should be increased to $2,000 and include a five-year
hunting, trapping and fishing license revocation.

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