LANSING — Heritage, hunting and Fred Bear were all topics of a discussion that brought Ted Nugent to Lansing Tuesday.
Nugent was in the state capitol to speak in support of legislation sponsored by Rep. Michele Hoitenga, R-Manton, in front of the House Committee on Government Operations. Both Hoitenga’s legislation, House Bill 4687 and Senate Bill 037, sponsored by Sen. Curt Vanderwall, R-Ludington, attempt to lift the baiting ban for white-tailed deer and elk.
During the hour-long committee meeting, Nugent spoke about how he is approached every day of his life by Michigan families who want to talk about hunting and the great outdoors. He said during the last couple years those same people have expressed “heartbreak‘ and “anger‘ because the regulations in Michigan are pushing them out of the sport of deer hunting.
“The rule banning feeding and baiting in Michigan is going to chase hunting families out of the sport for absolutely no reason,‘ Nugent said. “If a disease can be transmitted by nose to nose contact, there is not a damn thing you can do about it. The minute a deer is born they lick, they groom, and they swap spit.‘
Hoitenga said she proposed the legislation because of how it impacts the people who hunt white-tailed deer and elk in the state as well as the businesses that cater to them. She also said she was disappointed someone from the Department of Natural Resources was not present at Tuesday’s committee meeting.
Hoitenga said she has seen zero data to date that shows baiting bans have the desired effect or work. This includes from other states such as Wisconsin and Colorado where bans are in place, according to Hoitenga.
“The (Natural Resource Commission’s) baiting ban puts unnecessary restrictions on Michigan hunters with little evidence that it will do anything to prevent the spread of disease,‘ Hoitenga said. “It makes no sense to ban hunters from scattering apples near their tree stands when every day in nature deer graze on the fruit that falls off of apple trees.‘
While Nugent and Hoitenga were in favor of lifting the ban, one person who spoke Tuesday was not.
Michigan United Conservation Clubs Executive Director Amy Trotter said baiting and feeding white-tailed deer in Michigan is not supported by sound science and neither is lifting the current ban. She also said the bills in both the House and Senate eliminate the authority of the Natural Resources Commission when it comes to baiting.
The NRC, through Proposal G, is responsible for determining the manner and method of taking of game species in Michigan. The Legislature has granted the NRC the ability to regulate deer and elk feeding through statute. The two pieces of the proposed legislation would rescind these authorities and allow the baiting and feeding of white-tailed deer and other cervids to continue unregulated.
Trotter also said, like Hoitenga, she was disappointed the DNR didn’t have a presence at the committee meeting Tuesday to defend the work of biologists.
“I do think their stake in this is important,‘ she said.
In total, the DNR compiled 162 peer-reviewed, scientific articles to support their recommendations to the NRC on the management of white-tailed deer in Michigan in the face of diseases such as chronic wasting disease. This literature review, along with the 2017 Michigan CWD Working Group recommendations as well as the 2018 “Best Management Practices‘ released in 2018 from the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, supports a prohibition on baiting and feeding cervids.
“We have clear and consistent science that shows baiting and feeding of white-tailed deer is a human factor that contributes to the spread of chronic wasting disease,‘ Trotter said. “Deer naturally congregate, MUCC doesn’t dispute that, but we can control congregating them over bait placed in the field by hunters.‘
In August 2018, the Michigan NRC released its new regulations designed to combat the spread of chronic wasting disease. CWD attacks the central nervous system of infected animals, resulting in emaciation, abnormal behavior and loss of bodily functions. There is no recovery, and the disease always results in the death of the animal.
These new regulations adopted in August 2018 included a ban on baiting and feeding in the Lower Peninsula, which was effective Jan. 31. There is an exception to this ban for hunters with disabilities who meet specific requirements. The start date on this regulation also was intended to allow bait producers and retailers time to adjust to the new rule.
House Bill 4687 remains under consideration by the House Government Operations Committee. Moving forward, Hoitenga said she would like to see the committee hold another hearing on this topic during the next couple weeks. She also would like to see something happen soon as deer season is quickly approaching.