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Scott Rall: Give everybody a hug

Scott Rall

Daily Globe outdoors columnist 

I have heard that this legislative session is being called the the un-do session.

It was just last year that the powers raised taxes. and this year they cut them. I have heard that you should hold off filing your return for a few days to see if you could save a little of your hard-earned cash.

It seems that the right hand and the left hand often don’t know what the other is doing. It appears that it is not a lot different on the game fish and wildlife side of the equation, either.

I am talking about baiting. Baiting deer is illegal in Minnesota and the practice has gotten lots of press the past five years. Baiting bear is legal.

Baiting is the placement of any type of food for the purpose of getting an animal close for a better chance of killing it. This is not the same as wildlife feeding, which is done solely to get animals close in order to watch and enjoy them.

Feeding deer is also illegal in some areas as it makes disease transmission much more likely. Bait can be corn, grain, apples or even a pile of vegetable greens.

Baiting is legal in other states and the practice is not universally frowned upon. I, for one, think baiting is wrong and should stay against the law in Minnesota.

In states where baiting is legal one can even use a timed feeder that on regular intervals turns itself on and spreads bait at a predetermined amount. Texas has lots of this going on. A deer or other animal gets into the routine of showing up at a specific time and it gets fed its daily ration of supper. After a few months of regular baiting, shooting a deer is like harvesting a steer out of the pen at the end of the driveway. It’s all bad in my book.

Under current rules, if you are caught hunting over a bait pile you can be charged and your firearm seized regardless of whether you actually shot a deer or not. Hunting over the bait is all that is required for you to possibly lose your gun and hunting privileges for a year.

Baiting is currently a serious offense and losing a gun permanently and your hunting privileges for a year or two is a big deal. So, just like trying to legalize drugs, some think that if you cannot control the problem then legalize it and everything will just hunky-dory. With over 150 baiting citations written last year, there is now a bill in the Minnesota House of Representatives that would make a gun confiscation possible only if you actually shoot a deer.

So if this bill (the bill number is HF 2421) passes, baiting is not really baiting unless you actually get caught killing something.

This is so bogus. If a poacher gets caught shooting at ducks and hour before the legal shooting time but does not kill any, does this mean he/she did not break the game laws of the state and thus should not get a ticket? Where does this kind of thinking come from?

The supporters of the bill say the penalties for baiting are too harsh and the punishment should fit the crime. They ask, what if this is the person’s first offense? First, I believe that anyone who hunts deer in Minnesota knows that the practice of baiting is illegal. It has been in the news for years and is no secret.

I can tell you that I never caught a break on my first speeding ticket 35 years ago. If an angler kept 10 walleyes over their limit should they get a pass if it is their first offense? I think not.

Maybe it was a different time when I first started hunting and fishing. I was told by my mentors that ignorance is no excuse. If you hunted or fished it was your responsibly to know the rules and abide by them. Now we live in the land of give “everyone a hug” and if five people are in the race make sure all five get a ribbon just for participating.

I am all for stiffer penalties for gross over limits or other serious game violations. We as a society do not place high enough value on our natural resources.

You can ask yourself what is a deer worth? Is it worth more if it has big horns? To me, they are all worth the same and when a slob member of the public hunts or fishes in a manner that cheats the rest of the general public out of that resource, there should be a serious repercussion.

The way it looks to me, we are headed in the opposite direction on deer baiting. Why, I will never know. Maybe a constituent of a politician somewhere got pinched for baiting and thinks the world owes them a do-over.

I don’t know what instigated this proposed regulation change but this change did not come from the rank and file sportsman who cherishes our days afield.

Others will try to make a case that baiting deer is OK. Proponents of baiting will make the comparison of a food plot to a pile of corn on the ground under a tree stand and believe that they are the same. They are not. Most food plots like the one I plant is measurable in size. The one I plant is 850 feet long and 80 feet wide. A deer stand on the end of this field (I do not have a stand near the food plot) does not get me within shooting distance of a deer. A pile of bait 20 feet below a stand does. These are two totally different things.

Hunting is about hunting and not all about killing. It takes a certain level of skill to get close to a white tail deer. It is not supposed to be easy and baiting is taking the low skill shortcut to what is supposed to be a challenging and satisfying effort.

Any law maker that thinks reducing the penalty for deer baiting is the right thing to do is on the opposite side of the fence from all of ethical and moral sportsman in this great state.

Unfortunately, this bills seems ripe for passage. I will not use bait even if it were legal in our state. If the first step is to reduce the penalties for baiting, how long will it take for that same law maker to introduce a bill to legalize the practice completely? If and when this happens it will be a sad day for our natural resources and just one more way for politicians to make everyone feel good.

Not every one deserves a hug this day.