CWD Baiting Bans and Deer Food Plots
Nowadays, you’d be hard-pressed to find a hunter that hasn’t heard of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). The disease is sweeping across the whitetail’s range, meaning more and more hunters have to deal with the implications the disease brings. In recent years, besides dead deer, this has resulted in a dramatic increase in state departments’ regulations attempting to stop the spread of the disease, including county or state-wide baiting bans. Unfortunately, for some hunters, this means drastic changes in the way they hunt.
CWD Baiting Bans
So why are baiting bans being put in place in certain counties and states? Unlike Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD), in which deer can build immunity, CWD is a fatal infectious brain disease caused by a prion. These prions spread through the deer herd via saliva, urine, and feces. Recently, a study done by the University of Wisconsin – Madison resulted in the possibility that these prions live in areas where deer congregate like deer mineral sites. This study found that 9 out of 11 mineral sites tested positive for CWD prions in the soil or water around the site. It confirmed the suspicion that prions can live and spread where deer unnaturally congregate to a single point of contact.
Mineral sites, salt blocks, corn piles, and other attraction sites that are meant to attract deer to one specific location have the uncanny ability to speed up the spread of the disease. For states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Missouri putting a stop to baiting deer could slow down the disease’s progress through counties and to other states. Hunters in these states or that are wishing to steer away from tactics that may spread diseases should be looking into other options that attract deer, that don’t congregate them to one specific location where they may come into contact with prions.
Attracting Deer without the Use of Bait
In states with baiting bans, a lot more than hunter’s hunting tactics change. If the regulations banning baiting span throughout the year hunters have to start thinking of ways to attract deer even when trying to census them with trail cameras. Whether hunting or trying to capture deer on trail cameras, there are a couple of options that can attract deer without congregating them to one specific point.
A couple of ideas that might immediately come to mind would include mock scrapes and waterholes for deer. However, there still may be some concern about these attractants as prions may be spread through urine and saliva. Both mock scrapes and small waterholes congregate deer to one specific point, a point in which they will interact with the soil or water, where prions could exist.
Where does this leave you? One of the best (and safest) ways to attract deer for hunting or trail cameras is to use food plots. Compared to bait sites, they may take a little more work but can result in a safe way to attract deer, and if done right, even more deer than your standard bait pile. Since the deer aren’t congregating in one particular point (like a salt block) and/or interacting with the soil or swapping saliva it is ethical and safe to way to attract deer in as natural of a way as possible.
Using Food Plots to Attract Deer
Food plots are pretty simple, plant it and they will come. Unfortunately, it can take far more planning and effort than that, especially if you want to pull a mature buck. If you are looking to attract deer or are weaning off of using bait and mineral sites to hunt, deer food plots are your answer! If hunting over bait describes you’re not so distant past, you’re probably not a big food plotter and will be trying to get a handle on planting food plots in the coming months. In order to attract deer, you’ll need to know three things:
- Where to Plant
- What to Plant
- How to Plant
Where to plant and what to plant will be situationally dependent, not want you to want to hear, but good advice for good reason. More research will undoubtedly lead to better strategies and better plots. You will most likely start with a small food plot in the woods, or a small opening next to a woodlot and/or Ag field. You’ll learn that this can be one of the best plots, but has its limitations, especially in attracting deer in the late season when snow hits. Food plot shape, size, and most importantly species selection all play a critical role in a plot’s success at attracting deer. When the right combination is achieved, mature bucks will feed in the plots, especially if the right access is set up and hunting pressure is kept to a minimum. A staging area food plot like a small clover plot or even the largest late-season food sources are recipes that can draw bucks into the plot with plenty of shooting light to spare. We’ve organized a few articles that will help you find the right combination, whether you’re a new food plotter or a season plot veteran.
- Small Food Plots 101
- Summer Food Plots
- Fall Food Plots and Kill Plots
- Soybean Food Plots
- Soybean Versus Corn Plots
- What Species is Best for Small Plots?
- Food Plot Herbicides and Managing Weeds
Regardless of what you plant, and where you plant it, the how will always be one of your toughest battles. Besides equipment limitations, the soil is the key to food plots and you will always need to get a handle on food plot pH and soil nutrients to maximize the attractiveness of your plot.
Food Plot Preparation
Plot preparation and getting the soil just right can be expensive and time-consuming. In the case of CWD baiting bans, you may be throwing a food plot strategy together at the last minute. If you don’t have time for a soil sample, don’t have the access or equipment to amend the soil with lime or fertilizer, or simply need a quick fix for your fall kill plot we have a solution…DeerGro. The combination of 2 sprays that easily fit with available equipment or hard-to-access plots can quickly condition the soil in a pinch.
The first spray is PlotStart™ a lime replacement spray that has the equivalency of 1 ton of lime per acre (at a 2.5 gallons/acre treatment). Sprayed before or during planting, it instantly provides calcium to the seedlings and adjusts the soil pH during the plot’s development. The second spray, PlotBoost™ is a foliar application that boosts plant growth, water uptake, nutrient uptake, and plot attraction. Together, they work to provide the soil and the plant’s key ingredients that unlock the potential of any staging area, small opening in the woods, or even the largest Ag fields developed into food plots.
CWD baiting bans may be a tough pill to swallow for hunters with long histories of hunting and scouting tactics involving bait, but they have been put in place for good reason. They are slowing the unnatural congregation of deer to one single point, slowing down the spread of CWD. They are also forcing hunters to look at different and often times better tactics to attract der to trail camera or stand sites. If your season looks bleak with new regulations, or you’d like to develop better hunting tactics ahead of possibly stricter regulations, food plots are your answer. Want to get started this year? It’s not too late to plant plots, check out our blog on one of the easiest, and best ways to attract deer for hunting in a pinch.