bud fields

I realize the Indiana Deer Hunting seasons are just a couple months away, but I am constantly getting questions about the legality of baiting for deer in Indiana. During my many deer hunting seminars across the state, I get bombarded with questions concerning, “Why can’t I use it if they are allowed to sell it?” and “They do it in other states; why not Indiana?” I even have people get rather upset with me, and I have nothing to do with the rules and regulations.

My efforts in discussing the topic in my articles and during my seminars are to inform you and hopefully prevent you from getting arrested for doing something illegal. I highly recommend you pick up a copy of the 2017 Indiana Hunting Regulations and read it. It would not hurt a thing if you actually read it a number of times. What may be legal in one state might not be legal in Indiana and as the old adage goes, “Ignorance is no excuse!”

I contacted the Indiana Department of Natural Resources in Indianapolis, and I asked if a Conservation Officer from Cass or Howard County could contact me and possibly allow me to conduct an interview for my outdoor column about baiting for deer in Indiana. Within a couple of days, I was contacted by Conservation Officer Ryan McCauley. He is assigned to Clinton County but has been assisting in Howard and Cass Counties until a fulltime officer is appointed.

Officer McCauley agreed to meet me and give me information pertaining to baiting deer in Indiana. We soon were joined by the recently-appointed Cass County conservation officer, Robert Cochran. He had attended a meeting but wanted to meet with me and more or less get acquainted. We sat down at the our kitchen table, and I mentioned to them that during many of my deer hunting seminars I receive numerous questions about why can the businesses sell deer bait if it is illegal to use for hunting?

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, it clearly states in the Indiana Deer Hunting Rules and Regulations booklet under fair chase that “it is illegal to use bait, salt, dogs, or any other domesticated animals to take deer. Bait is considered any product that is transported into a hunting area and placed there for animal consumption. Baits can be in the form of salt, mineral blocks, prepared solid or liquid, or piles of apples or other food that is intended for the animal to eat. An area is considered to be baited for 10 days after the removal of the bait and any affected soil.” That pretty much sums it up.

Officer McCauley and Officer Cochran both stated that many hunters use bait and attractants during the off-season to capture pictures on trail cameras, and this is perfectly legal. But, the bait must be removed 10 days prior to the hunter actually hunting the location. This also means that any/all affected soil must be dug up and disposed of. They also mentioned they have methods of checking soil to see if there is any bait residue present.

I mentioned to them that I have had questions asking, “Why is it legal to use doe-in-heat scent as an attractant scent to hopefully attract a big buck, but it is illegal to use a food type bait?” The key word in the regulation is consumption. The doe-in-heat scent is not placed there for the animal to consume it as food. Food plots are legal to hunt because the contents are planted early and will grow there much like the farmers planting corn and beans, and the bait products are transported to and from the field. Also, many hunters use bait basically for management purposes to make more nutrients available to increase numbers of deer plus sustain a healthier deer herd. But some dishonest applications do occur, and serious consequences are experienced.

Personally, I run 15 to 20 trail cameras on different properties I hunt. I prefer to use natural food sources, such as corn, beans, and winter wheat that the farmer plant because the deer are accustomed to these food sources. I have discussed the scenario about, “How can I convince a judge the bait was removed 10 days prior to me hunting a location?” It was basically a consensus that it would be to discretion of the officer, and it would be better that the hunter be courteous and not cuss and scream at the officer.

I contend it would be easier for the officer to convince the judge the bait was not removed 10 days prior to the hunt than for me to convince the judge it was removed 10 days prior to the hunt. To make this simple, I don’t use any form of bait for deer hunting applications, so, therefore, I don’t have to worry about removing anything 10 days prior to hunting.

I extended an invitation for Officer McCauley and Officer Cochran to visit me at my display table at any of my 2017 Deer Hunting Seminars, and I gave them a complete schedule of locations and times. They told me they would make every effort to visit and possibly answer any questions concerning Deer Hunting Regulations. I, along with them, urge you to obtain a copy of the 2017/2018 Indiana Deer Hunting Regulations. There have been some changes made this year concerning high power rifles and permits, as well as the hunter orange requirement on man-made ground blinds, but so many hunters do not understand.

I would like to thank both Officer McCauley and Officer Cochran for graciously donating a couple hours of their time to assist me with the information they provided me for this article. I would also like to say, in my opinion, they have the most under appreciated jobs. Many times, they acquire a reputation for being bad guys when all they are doing is a job.