Opening day for the 2019 firearm deer season has come and gone and hunters across my district and throughout the state are left divided by the state’s baiting ban.
The reasoning for the ban is simple: To stop the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), a horrific, incurable disease that affects cervids such as deer, elk, moose and caribou.
The argument is bait and feed piles are areas where deer congregate, have immediate physical contact as well as indirect contact through the bait, feed, nearby grass or soil.
The mutated proteins that cause CWD are highly resilient and can live for long periods of time in the bait, feed, grass or soil that has been infected. The disease can be transmitted through saliva, urine, feces and even through dead carcasses.
I, for one, have traditionally been on the side of science when it comes to this issue. I’ve worked quite closely and had many discussions with Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officials on the matter. I’ve even toured Michigan State University’s veterinary facility where testing for diseases like CWD typically take place.
It was an insightful experience and I only wish that others could do the same.
With that said, I think the state can go about the solution a bit differently. I’ve been a small business owner for most of my life. I know what it is like to deal with state regulations and I know what it is like when the state changes the rules on you.
Farmers are frustrated because they grow these crops used for bait and feed and the ban didn’t allow enough time for them to pivot their planting plans for the upcoming season — and I understand that frustration whole-heartedly.
The Natural Resources Commission (NRC) also adopted an antler point restriction for core CWD zones that has been nothing short of controversial.
It is important that Michigan take steps to reduce the deer population in order to slow the spread of CWD. While I support the NRC and find their efforts to maintain a healthy deer population admirable, I think the commission can make changes that make more sense.
I’ve seen no compelling evidence for an antler point restriction — even in core CWD zones. Data shows that bucks have a higher prevalence rate of CWD and older bucks are even more likely to test positive for the disease. Imposing restrictions that remove less bucks from the population leaves many trying to understand the reasoning behind the NRC’s decision.
After discussions in Lansing and after taking calls from countless hunters in my district, I ended up supporting a recent measure to lift the current ban on baiting and feeding in Michigan.
I supported an amendment to limit the size of bait pieces, require the pieces to be widely spread out and sunset the new provisions after two years. Revisiting the policy after two years will ensure that the NRC has time to regularly review and evaluate the law as a more viable, long-term solution is considered.
This legislation — if signed — would not go into effect until next year and will not impact the current deer season.
I have long supported the NRC and their efforts to preserve wildlife and our outdoor heritage — including their decision to ban deer baiting to help control the spread of CWD. I believe in the professionals on the commission and at the DNR and I believe they are trying to do what’s right for Michigan. Lifting the ban will allow hunters to return to using bait and feed while a more sensible, long-term solution is sought out.
Hunting is not only a tradition among countless Michiganders, it provides a significant annual boost to our economy and plays a critical role in controlling the deer population. The number of hunters has been dropping in recent years and we need to support this deep-rooted Michigan tradition and get more young hunters out in the field.
Sen. Rick Outman, R-Six Lakes, represents the 33rd state Senate District, which includes Clare, Gratiot, Isabella, Mecosta, and Montcalm counties.