Deer bait ban includes two new counties

A whitetail buck and doe. (Source: Wisconsin DNR/Herbert Lange)
A whitetail buck and doe. (Source: Wisconsin DNR/Herbert Lange)

WAUPACA COUNTY - There are mixed reviews Friday to news that people are now banned in two of the area's primary deer hunting counties, Shawano and Waupaca, from baiting or feeding deer.

And the ban won't go away.

The DNR announced the ban after a deer, shot at a Marathon County hunting preserve was found to have chronic wasting disease.

State law requires counties within a 10-mile radius of where the deer was found to stop baiting and feeding deer.

The DNR says even though no CWD has been found in either Waupaca or Shawano County, the ban on baiting and feeding deer covers both.

"An infected individual leaves behind material, and so a concentrated feed site just expands that opportunity for disease transmission," said Jeff Pritzl, DNR district wildlife supervisor.

And recent harvest totals indicate the area has plenty of deer. The DNR says 5.8 percent of the deer taken in the 2011 gun-deer season were registered in Waupaca and Shawano counties.

"There's potentially a higher risk of disease transmission, just based on total deer density," said Pritzl.

The new order brings the total number of counties banning baiting to 35. That's nearly half the number of counties statewide.

Hunters we talked to say opinion is mixed. Arlyn Splitt says he has used bait in the past.

"Late-season bow hunting. I did put some out for late-season bow hunting to try and enhance that," said Arlyn Splitt, Town of Bear Creek.

His friend John Hedtke likes the ban.

"He thinks with his stomach, and he's going to go where the easy food is. And that makes it hard for the other people that don't bait, because the deer don't have to move," said John Hedtke, Town of Bear Creek.

Both men say feeding deer was a favorite past time. One that will be missed.

"It's going to be hard on older people, where they have their little pile out in the backyard," said Hedtke.

"Especially this winter, with all the snow and cold we have, the feed, it's beneficial too for the animals," said Splitt.

But the DNR says the ban is here to stay.

"When we think about the overall health of the deer herd, the big picture, and long term, it's really in the best interest of the herd to be moving away from that tradition of baiting and feeding," said Pritzl.

The ban does not affect bird feeders. The DNR says people may have to modify their backyard stations, to keep deer out of reach.