Wildlife - Deer Information

A Retrospective on Hunting Deer Over Bait in South Carolina - Can Baiting Negatively Affect Hunter Success and Deer Harvest Rates?


Wildlife Section staff recognizes that hunting deer over bait has taken place in the Coastal Plain for a number of years. However, staff also understands that this situation exists only as a result of the history of deer hunting in that region, the fact that there has been a relatively recent change from dog hunting to still hunting, and the fact that the baiting issue has never been addressed in state law. Now, baiting is the norm rather than the exception in the Coastal Plain yet state law does not prescribe the practice in that region.

Staff is concerned with the obvious role that baiting can play in the biology of deer and in the dissemination and maintenance of disease. Baiting affects other "non target" species and habitats, as well. It should also be understood that social issues involving bait pit hunters and landowners against one another in a "competitive" atmosphere related to the distribution, behavior, and harvest of deer. There are ethical considerations and it is important to recognize that the public at large does not support baiting and this point undermines hunting and wildlife management programs that have historically been accepted by the public.

Finally, although some believe that baiting increases hunter success and deer harvest rates, data collected in South Carolina over an 8 year period indicate just the opposite. In the Piedmont where baiting was historically prohibited, hunters killed more deer per unit area and spend less time doing it than in the Coastal Plain where baiting has been the norm. The most significant concern of SCDNR Wildlife Section staff is the likelihood that decreased hunter efficiency and deer harvest rates will occur over time now that the prohibition on baiting has been eliminated in the Piedmont.

In the end, Piedmont hunters who support the change in the baiting law must answer one question. What was broken about deer hunting and management in the Piedmont that will be fixed with bait?


  1. See Ruth (1990).

  2. See Kammermeyer and Thackston (1995), Ruth (1990), Simmons and Ruth (1990).

  3. See Ruth and Simmons (1995).

  4. See Jacobson and Darrow (1992), Kammermeyer and Marchinton (1977), Synatzke (1981).

  5. See Darrow (1993), Jacobson and Darrow (1992), Kammermeyer and Marchinton (1977), Georgia DNR (1992), Synatzke (1981).

  6. See Ozoga and Verme (1982).

  7. See Ruth (1990).

  8. See Schmitt et al. (1977), Williamson (2000).

  9. See Doenier et al. (1997), Georgia DNR (1992), Michigan DNR (1993), Ozoga and Verme (1992).

  10. See Brown (2001), Cheatum (1956), Michigan DNR (1993), Williamson (2000).

  11. In 1993 SCDNR was asked by the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study to collect samples of corn that were being used as bait in coastal counties of South Carolina. Laboratory results of this effort indicated that 15 of 21 samples were positive and aflatoxin levels ranged from trace amounts to 266 parts per billion (ppb). Twenty ppb is the action level for corn in interstate commerce. Ten (approximately 50%) of the samples contained aflatoxin levels in access of 20 ppb.

  12. See Davidson and Nettles (1997), Davis (1998)

  13. See Cooper and Ginnett (2000)

  14. SCDNR has received numerous contacts form coastal plain landowners or lessees voicing concern over the issue of individuals using bait on small properties adjacent to or within properties (in holdings) that have a history of traditional deer management. Similarly, these complaints typically involve large quantities of bait and deer harvests that would be considered exceptionally high considering the locality, habitat type, and size of the area in question. See Georgia DNR (1992)

  15. SCDNR Law Enforcement Division has documented numerous incidences in which deer bait has resulted in cases being made, warnings being issued, or notification of illegal status related to properties where dove or turkey hunts were being conducted or considered. Also, both Wildlife Management and Law Enforcement personnel are frequently asked if hunting of certain species can take place in the vicinity of deer bait. This fact places personnel and constituents in an awkward position with respect to the issue of bait and species that are clearly not legal to hunt over bait.

  16. A 1998 SCDNR Deer Hunter Survey asked the question "Do you favor or oppose the practice of hunting deer over bait" to a randomly selected survey of approximately 12,000 statewide deer hunting license type holders. Response rate for the survey was approximately 40 percent. Based on hunters who most frequently hunted in piedmont counties, this survey indicated that piedmont hunters had a significantly different (alpha = 0.05, X2 = 390.8) opinion related to the appropriateness of hunting deer over bait.

  17. See Peyton (1998)

  18. See Georgia DNR (1992)

  19. See Duda et al. (1998), Georgia DNR (1992)

  20. SCDNR harvest data voluntarily submitted by hunters clearly show that the top counties in South Carolina for deer harvest per square mile are located in the Piedmont of the state. Harvest reports available at www.dnr.sc.gov. See Ruth (1990), Simmons and Ruth (1990).

  21. See Ruth and Shipes (2005)


Brown, R.D. 2001. The case against supplemental feeding of white-tailed deer. Proceedings of the 24th Annual Meeting of the Southeast Deer Study Group. St. Louis, MO. 59pp.

Cheatum, E.L. 1956. Too many deer. New York State Conservationist 10(6): 2-4.

Cooper, S. M. and T. F. Ginnettt. 2000. Potential effects of supplemental feeding of deer on nest predation. Wildl. Soc. Bull. 28(3):660-666.

Darrow, D.A. 1993. Effects of baiting on deer movement and activity. Master of Science Thesis. Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Mississippi State University, Starkville, MS. 107 pp.

Davidson W.R. and V. F. Nettles. 1997. Field manual of wildlife Diseases in the Southeastern United States. Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study. College of Veterinary Medicine, The University of Georgia, Athens, GA 417pp.

Doenier, P.B., G.D. DelGiudice, and M.R. Riggs. 1997. Effects of winter supplemental feeding on browse consumption by white-tailed deer. Wildl. Soc. Bull. 25(2):235-243.

Duda, M.D., S.J. Bissell, and K.C. Young. 1998. Wildlife and the American Mind: Public opinion on and attitudes toward fish and wildlife management. Responsive Management, Harrisburg, VA. 804 pp.

Georgia Dept. of Natural Resources. 1992. Position Statement: Georgia Game and Fish Division: Hunting Deer Over Bait. Unpublished document. GA Dept. Natural Res. Social Circle, GA 3 pp.

Jacobson, H.A. and D.A. Darrow. 1992. Effects of baiting on deer movements and activity. 15th Annual Southeast Deer Study Group Meeting 15:23.

Kammermeyer, K.E. and R.L. Marchinton: 1977. Seasonal change in circadian activity of radio monitored deer. J.Wildl. Manage. 41(2): 315-317

Kammermeyer, K.E. and R.E. Thackston. 1995. Habitat management and supplemental feeding. Pages 129-154. In Quality Whitetails. Editors K.V. Miller and R.L. Marchinton. Stackpole Books. Mechanicburg, PA.

Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources. 1993. Deer and bear baiting: biological issues. Michigan Department of Natural Resources, unpublished report. 17 pp.

Ozoga, J.J., and L.J. Verme. 1982. Physical and reproductive characteristics of a supplementally fed white-tailed deer her. JK. Wildl. Manage. 46(2): 281-301.

Peyton, R.B. 1998. Defining management issues: dogs, hunting and society. Trans. N.Am. Wild. And Naur. Resour. Conf. 63:544-555.

Ruth, C.R., Jr. 1990. A comparison of three white-tailed deer management strategies in the coastal lain of South Carolina. M.S. Thesis, Clemson Univ., Clemson, S.C. 63pp

Ruth, C.R., Jr. and H.L. Simmons, Jr. 1995. Relationships between supplemental and natural feed in a free-ranging, supplementally-fed white-tailed deer herd. Annu. Meet. Southeast Deer Study Group 18:18.

Ruth, C.R., Jr. and Derrell A. Shipes. 2005. Potential negative effects on regional white-tailed deer harvest rates in South Carolina: A state with conflicting baiting laws. Annu. Meet. Southeast Deer Study Group 28:18.

Schmitt, S.M., S.D. Fitzgerald, T.M. Cooley, C.S. Bruning-Fann, L. Sullivan, D. Berry, T. Carlson, R.B. Minnus, J.B. Payeur, and J. Sikarskie. 1997. Bovine tuberculosis in free-ranging white-tailed deer from Michigan J. Wildl. Diseases. 33(4):749-758.

Simmons, H.L., and C.R. Ruth. 1990. White-tailed deer management at the Cedar Knoll Club. Annu. Meet. Southeast Deer Study Group 13:8.

Synatzke, D.R. 1981. Effects of baiting on white-tailed deer hunting success. Job 37 W-109 R4. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Wildlife Division, Austin, TX. 18pp.

Williamson, S.J., 2000. Feeding wildlife…just say no! Wildlife Management Institute, Washington, D.C. 34pp