A bill that proposes to lift Michigan's ban on baiting deer and elk during open season in the Lower Peninsula and parts of the Upper Peninsula is off to the state Senate.
Baiting is the practice of placing piles of food such as apples and carrots to lure deer and elk into a particular area, where those animals will return during hunting season.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) enacted the ban in 2018 due to concern it may increase tuberculosis and chronic wasting disease (CWD), a contagious and fatal neurological disease, in deer and elk.
Michele Hoitenga, R-Manton, the bill’s sponsor, called the ban “silly.”
“Baiting is a method that hunters have relied on for generations, and there’s absolutely no evidence it contributes to the spread of disease,” Hoitenga said in a statement. “The ban is doing more harm than good by chasing hunting families away from the sport.”
“The revenue generated from hunting licenses helps support conservation efforts carried out by the DNR, and hunting enthusiasts play a crucial role in supporting our state’s northern and rural economies,” Hoitenga continued, adding that hunting and fishing license sales totaled $83.5 million last year, which funded wildlife restoration and protection of endangered and threatened species.
Hoitenga cited a Michigan United Conservation Club study that hunting produced 171,000 jobs in Michigan, generating about $8.9 billion in annual economic impact.
Hoitenga previously said in a House Government Operations Committee hearing that Michigan’s deer overpopulation increased spreading CWD rather than baiting.
Ballotpedia states the DNR’s power to enact the ban originated in 1996, when 68.7 percent of voters passed Proposal G, granting the Natural Resources Commission authority to regulate game hunting.
DNR Public Officer Ed Golder emailed The Center Square 42 studies that he said concluded baiting increases the chance that chronic wasting will spread.
“We believe the authority to ban baiting and feeding should remain with the Natural Resources Commission, the appointed body responsible for regulating the method and manner of take of game in Michigan,” Golder said in an email.
“In addition, peer-reviewed research has shown that baiting and feeding that concentrates animals beyond their normal movement patterns increases the likelihood of disease transmission,” Golder continued.
The bill now moves to the Senate, but a vote won't be taken before firearm deer season starts on Nov. 15.