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I was doing my daily readings of the bazillion blogs I follow, when an article on Extreme Outdoor caught my eye. To Feed, or Not to Feed? That is the Question... is as contentious a subject as there ever is. It's right up there with High Fence hunting if you ask me. And I am always looking for contentious!
I wrote Paul and asked him if he would mind if I reprinted it here on The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles. Paul graciously and enthusiastically agreed to the proposal. My hope is to get a good discussion going and once again learn new perspectives from my fellow hunters.
While doing my daily run-through of the blogs I follow, I came across an article written by Rick at Whitetail Woods. His article entitled Deer Feeders, Can be Worth Added Cost particularly caught my eye. Rick featured a tri-pod style feeder he encountered while at a friend's house. He did a great job giving specifications of the product. While the post was aesthetically flawless, I couldn't help but think about the implications of using a feeder, and perhaps the "ethical" dilemma that comes with it. Since I couldn't get the subject out of my mind, I decided to create a post to further explore this issue.
I'd like to start this off with a short story. When I started turkey hunting, I learned that a semi-distant relative hunted land very close to the land I was hunting. Every year, he harvested a large Eastern Turkey. After hunting hard and having little luck, I wondered how the heck he managed to do so well every year. I eventually found out his secret. Prior to and during the hunting season, he would take a bucket of corn and dump it in front of his favorite place to sit in the woods. Every day, equipped with a new bucket of corn, he took to the woods. He never had to wait long to pick the bird of his choice to harvest.
The BIG questions here: Is this cheating? Is baiting, in general, a dishonest way to hunt?
At the time, I'll admit I was furious at the idea of baiting or feeding. What he was doing took no skill. He never had to call or stalk the turkeys. He just had to sit there and wait. It wouldn't matter if he spooked the birds off--they would be back for more corn, and he would be waiting for them (another BIG question: Is this really hunting?)
My initial reaction is this:
Is this cheating? Yes. By placing a food source in an area and intentionally sitting over it for the purpose of harvesting animals gives the hunter an unfair advantage over the game they are after.
I wanted to push the issue a little further, and the first comment on Rick's post helps me do so. "Native" writes:
"Great thing that feeders are starting to lose their undeserved stigma Rick! It is so funny how (here in California) a person will disparage the use of a feeder, but will go right out the very next morning to hunt over a Barley Field. Same thing No? The other reality is the fact that we must supplement the food source for today's wild life. Just as with Factory Farming for people, so must it be with our wild life because there just ain't enough land to support us all anymore without doing so"
"Native" brings up a very good point. What is the difference between placing your stand in the corner of a cornfield and throwing out a bucket of corn every day? Either way, the hunter is taking advantage of the fact that animals have to eat. If placing the stand in the corner of a corn field is considered smart for understanding that game will travel to and from this location, then using a bucket corn or any food supplement should also make the hunter "smart" for doing so...not a cheater.
One might suggest that there is still a clear difference between using a feeder or food plot and sitting on the edge of a corn field: a feeder or food plot has one specific purpose--to attract animals. A corn or bean field might be considered a more "natural" food source for animals because they don't exist for wild game. The farmer who grows the field has an agenda for the crops, and that agenda doesn't include the feeding of wild animals. Because of this difference, one could also suggest the use of food plots or feeders should be rendered illegal because they are meant specifically for the attraction of wild game. While this solution seems logical for a "fair" hunt, it just can't happen for one simple reason: wildlife/habitat restoration. Every year, tons of money is spent to increase habitat for animals. This is exactly the same as creating a food plot or using a feeder. For example, a farmer patronizes the Conservation Reserve Program or CRP in a field on their land to increase habitat for pheasants. The farmer also plans to hunt the pheasants when a decent population exists in the CRP. Creating habitat, even in the name of hunting, is seen as a noble cause. No one has a problem with this. But what is the difference between giving animals a home and giving them food? Creating a CRP field and feeding game can both be done in the name of hunting, and both benefit the wild game and hunters. If we allow increased habitat for hunting, we must allow feeders, food plots, and salt blocks.
Another approach to the matter: Feeders, food plots, and salt blocks are all methods of attracting wild game to a hunting area. Hunters use many means of attracting animals all the time. Scents, calls, and decoys are used every season to attract game and get them within shooting range. If we removed the use of food sources to attract game, it seems only logical to remove all forms of attracting during the season.
One must also keep in mind that not all regions have good food sources to begin with. While Iowa has lush corn fields that keep animals well fed all year, locations in the southern United States don't have this rich vegetation. Feeders and food plots supplement the health of the animals, as well as create hunting opportunities.
Some hunting scenarios require a food source for a successful harvest of game. Bear hunting is often done by baiting. While this doesn't seem like "hunting," it is often the only way to even see a bear and make a clean shot.
While I don't think feeders and food plots can logically be taken out of the hunting scene, I will not use them in my own hunting. Hunting itself is determined by the individual. Personally, I like to make my hunts as challenging as possible. If someone else defines hunting by results and chooses to do whatever it takes to get results, so be it. The same debate can be placed on many aspects of hunting: using a blind vs. not using a blind...using a modern bow vs. a traditional bow...hunting with a bow vs. hunting with a gun...the list is endless. In the end, hunting is what you make of it.
What do you think? Leave a comment and let me know--I'm curious to hear various opinions on the subject.
Yes please, a good and bracing conversation is what we all need after this week's shenanigans!
Albert A Rasch
Member: Hunting Sportsmen of the United States HSUS (Let 'em sue me.)
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