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Monday, August 19, 2013
Hunters hoping to chase squirrels with a .22 when the season opens next month better have some ammo on hand.
Thanks to panicked ammo hoarders, .22 ammo remains hard to come by these days.
Other than that particular piece of hunting-related gear, the region’s sporting goods stores are pretty well stocked with supplies, from treestands to bows to guns to camo clothing to scent control products.
And, don’t forget the deer bait.
As is the norm for late summer, you can’t walk through a store that sells hunting supplies without finding vast quantities of mineral blocks, deer corn, syrups and the like.
Some, like the popular Trophy Rock mineral block, carry relatively benign names, while Beavis and Butthead would have a field day with products such as Swamp Donkey attractant and Buck Bomb’s new Corn Holer.
This is not going to be an anti-feeding or anti-baiting diatribe.
We all know (or should know) that hunting over bait is illegal in Virginia.
We also all know that hunting over bait is perfectly legal in some other states.
Who is right?
Well, that’s a debate we’ve been having for years, and will keep having.
This is simply going to be a primer on what’s legal, and what’s not.
First, selling deer bait and attractants is not illegal.
Retailers can sell the stuff to their hearts’ content in Virginia. Clearly there’s a demand for bait and attractants, and retailers are more than happy to meet that demand.
Buying deer bait and attractants is also not illegal.
You can buy all the Corn Holers — they’re $10 a pop — you care to haul home.
You just have a limited window when you can actually use them, with that window closing on Sept. 1, when the seasonal fall deer feeding ban goes into effect. (Keep in mind that feeding bears is illegal at all times, so if bait is attracting bears, it’s got to go.)
Many hunters have bait and/or attractants out there on the ground right now.
It’s not to provide supplemental nutrition for deer, or at least it shouldn’t be.
We use it to sweeten spots where we have our scouting cameras set up, in order to get a survey of what’s out there .
But, according to Department of Game and Inland Fisheries regulations, we not only have to stop placing feed and attractants on Sept. 1, we have to remove any such attractants.
The actual wording in the hunting regulations booklet reads: “All feed must be removed from any feeding site prior to Sept. 1.”
Additionally, a site where bait has been placed is considered to be baited for 10 days after the bait has been removed.
This is important for urban archery hunters to know.
The urban archery season opens on Sept. 7. So even if a hunter cleans up a feeding site on Aug. 31, that area is not legally huntable on the urban archery opener.
Cleaning a site is not necessarily an easy task.
For example, if there is any residue left behind after removing a mineral block, a site still could be considered legally baited.
How strict are the state’s conservation police officers on this?
I personally have no interest in finding out.
I have used Trophy Rocks for scouting camera lures in years past. This summer got away from me before I got serious about getting my cameras out, so, rather than having to deal with residue, I opted to forgo using attractants of any kind this year.
Attractants can help us get an idea of some of the deer roaming our hunting areas.
However, because we’re not going to be hunting over attractants, those pictures are of little actual scouting value.
We are much better off setting our cameras up on natural food sources or along deer travel corridors, which are the areas we will be hunting this fall.
The general deer feeding ban ends this season after Jan. 4, but not everywhere. A new regulation prohibits deer feeding any time there is an open deer season.
Since the late urban archery season opens on Jan. 6 and runs through March, counties and localities that offer urban archery are off limits to feeding during that time.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t plan to hunt. You still can’t place those mineral blocks or that deer corn out there, even if you’re just trying to lure deer to your game cameras in hopes of learning what big bucks made it through the season.
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