Hunt or Bait Whitetails, Your Decision

Because of various reasons not entirely the fault of American deer hunters, they have been unable to reduce whitetail numbers sufficiently during hunting seasons in various regions to ensure surviving deer will not be overabundant and likely to suffer from malnutrition and starvation during winter months. In an effort to improve numbers of deer taken, the use of bait (including food plots used as baits) to create whitetail shooting galleries in the woods became legal in various states. Today, millions of Americans know no other way to take whitetails, many going to extraordinary lengths to be successful at it. It didn’t take long, however, for mature bucks (and mature does) to begin to recognize the danger of visiting sites where baits are offered, especially during daylight hours. Today, the most common lament of deer baiters is, “Something needs to be done to increase the number of older bucks (or deer) in my hunting area.” Surveys I have done in such areas since 1986 invariably proved about half of the forty-plus percent of whitetails that are bucks living in an area where baiting had been legal two or more years were 2-1/2 to 6-1/2 years of age. This is the usual distribution of mature bucks wherever whitetails are hunted. The 4-1/2 to 6-1/2 year-olds are bucks in their prime. If such deer can be so elusive during hunting seasons that hunters using any of today’s popular hunting methods seldom see them, it is far-fetched to expect bait can somehow make it possible to see more of them. The only way to begin to regularly see and take mature bucks (or mature does) is learn to “more skillfully hunt” them. Those who insist on using bait – a  tactic that cannot be made more productive once mature whitetails in the area become “bait-smart” –  should be satisfied with what they get, mostly fawns and yearlings.

A detailed chart of U.S. states in which baiting is legal or not legal and regulations regarding baiting, painstakingly created by Glen Artis of Outdoorever, is available at

Keep in mind, regulations concerning the use of baits for taking deer, which baits are currently legal or not legal and where they can be used can change from year to year, so be sure to check the latest regulations in your state before using bait.

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