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State appeals court judge rules baiting deer is legal if not for hunting

Doe and two fawns in Florence County, October 26, 2016 (WLUK/Eric Peterson)

MADISON (WLUK) -- A ruling on baiting deer in Northwestern Wisconsin has the Department of Natural Resources clarifying one of its rules.

An appeals court judge ruled baiting and feeding deer is allowed in areas affected by chronic wasting disease, as long as the bait isn't intended for hunting.

What could be a significant change to state-wide baiting rules, has some hunters and deer watchers pleased.

"I feel if I wanted to put a can of corn out, I should be able to do it," said Ken Schmidt of Appleton.

Tuesday, an appeals court judge ruled that baiting and feeding deer is allowed -- even in areas affected by chronic wasting disease -- as long as it's not used for hunting.

Currently, 43 of Wisconsin's 72 counties are affected by CWD.

Wisconsin DNR rules ban feeding and baiting deer in any county within 10 miles of a deer that tests positive for chronic wasting disease. That's because the disease can spread quickly from deer to deer, when gathering around bait.

The DNR said in a statement that Tuesday's decision won't be binding precedent, and will only affect this specific citation and case in Washburn County.

The DNR says it will continue enforcing the rules.

Schmidt doesn't live in a county affected by chronic wasting disease, but hunts in areas that are.

"I don't feel like there's anything wrong with baiting, as long as you don't overdo it," he said.

Jon Gafner owns Jon's Sports shop. He says debate on the baiting ban has been a contentious one.

"It's a very volatile issue," he said. "You get both sides of the fence, and they both make valid points," he said.

Gafner says he enjoys feeding deer to watch them. He also doesn't live in a CWD-affected county.

"I enjoy it, and until I see something having it, I don't see it as a big detriment," Gafner said.

If Tuesday's decision affects future rules, CWD or not, many people may soon be able to enjoy it too.

Ten of those CWD-affected counties are in our area.

CWD attacks the brains of deer, causing the animals to grow thin, act strangely and eventually die.

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