Note: This is the first in a five-part series discussing tactics that land hunters and anglers in jail.
Scent lures are a tried-and-true method for drawing in trophy bucks in the field. It’s no wonder an industry has sprung up around the collecting, bottling, and marketing of deer scents, many made of actual or synthetic urine of does and bucks. It’s estimated to be an $18 million per year market in the U.S., according to this report for deer farmers.
Urine-based lures are widely used in Pennsylvania, but they’re illegal in a few places—specifically, the state’s designated “Disease Management Areas” (DMAs), which are set up to contain the very contagious Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), a known killer of deer. CWD, or Chronic Wasting Disease, is a condition found in hoofed mammals which results in astounding death rates. It is also found and transported in the urine of any affected animals. Deer and elk alike are affected by this disease, and the use of natural urine to attract deer poses a serious threat to both populations.
The use of urine-based attractants in the DMAs can cause deer to congregate in high densities, which can spread CWD, according to the Pennsylvania Game and Fish Commission.
Baiting deer with food, or just feeding them, can also spread the disease, the PGC said.
Thomas P. Grohol, a deputy executive director of the PGC, said in a 2016 news release that feeding and baiting are considered together because of how they attract deer.
“Actually, the rules against bait are nearly statewide, and carry hefty fines,” said Justin McShane, an Independent Program Attorney for U.S. Law Shield of Pennsylvania.
According to the 2016 news release (under the heading “What is Baiting”), “it generally is unlawful to hunt in or around any area where artificial or natural bait, hay, grain, fruit, nut, salt, chemical, mineral or other food—including their residues—are used or have been used within the past 30 days as an enticement to lure game or wildlife.
But the news release, written by Travis Lau, also noted that, “Some hunters in the summertime will place apples or salt blocks in their fall hunting areas in attempt to bring deer in front of their trail cameras and inventory what lives there, Grohol said.
“Such a practice is lawful, as long as the bait isn’t placed within a Disease Management Area, where it’s illegal to feed deer intentionally, or it’s not attracting bears or elk, the feeding of which is prohibited statewide.”
“All the bait,” McShane said, “including their residues, must be removed a full month before the start of a hunting season. If not, the hunter could be considered illegally hunting over bait.”
Regarding the afore-mentioned fines, McShane said hunting over bait is a summary offense punishable by a $150 to $300 fine.
“If animals are clearly being drawn to feed that’s placed out near homes or elsewhere, and someone is hunting them along that travel route, hunting over bait charges might be appropriate,” Grohol said in the news release. “The facts of each case are considered individually, but the feeding of wildlife near a hunting area is something hunters need to take into account and evaluate to make sure they’re complying with the law.”
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Stay tuned for part II of our Sportsman Series, “5 Tactics That Land Hunters & Anglers in Jail.”