Hunting policy defies rational thinking

Published 11:50 am Thursday, September 24, 2015

Being a devoted deer hunter for 45 years — mostly in Maryland — I became a resident of Virginia in 2004 doing most of my deer hunting here. I discovered the difference between deer hunting in Maryland and Virginia is like discussing the differences between night and day. The central reason is Virginia’s stance on feeding and baiting deer.

Although every state that has a common border with Virginia allows the baiting of deer, Virginia game officials say they fear (mostly) a disease in the herd called Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) apt to spread, they allege, if deer congregate at any given bait site. Other states that allow feeding reported no deer disease.

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) rails against feeding deer but outlaws feeding (in most counties) for just three months out of the year. This “fractional enforcement” to feeding deer mitigates its necessity. The DGIF’s anti-baiting policy defies rational thinking. Crops of any acreage and hunting over it for deer is acceptable to DGIF thinking. However, deer will also concentrate around these crops. What’s the difference? If baits are too concentrated, the law should require they be spread out like a crop. Low-income hunters don’t have resources to plant crops meaning only the wealthiest of hunters in Virginia can hunt deer over a bait otherwise called a food plot!

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In Maryland, where feeding is legal, hunters who have as little as three acres have just as good of a chance to kill a buck as the hunters with 300 acres.

The DGIF further states hunting deer over a planted-food plot is ethical but unethical where feed is placed. Food grown or placed for deer is still an attractant. What’s the difference? If hunting programs on TV can be considered the yardstick to measure ethical hunting, they show deer being hunted over feed but never using dogs. Who in Virginia decided hunting deer with dogs is ethical? In Virginia, countless feed stores sell a wealth of deer feeds precisely when the DGIF says it’s illegal to place feed for deer. The September 2015 issue of the “Virginia Game and Fish” magazine has a deer bait ad on page 23. Is this ad a joke or an open invitation to break the law by the same people who make the law?

That ad demonstrates that the DGIF and hunters alike are scoffing at what amounts to a bad law.

Those who make hunting laws banning baits and those selling millions of dollars in feed for deer are at odds. Like the days of prohibition, economics and popular demand mute the law. Deer baits are indeed being bought and used, so why is it that Virginia doesn’t have a rampant CWD problem game officials claim go hand in hand with feeding deer?

Hunting deer in Virginia has been a shocking disappointment! Without a good food plot, afforded to the affluent only, bow hunting in Virginia is a waste of time especially for the disabled. It may be difficult for Virginia deer hunters to imagine what a Maryland deer hunt is like seeing dozens of deer a day.

Karl Schmidt, a Maryland native, moved to Farmville in 2004. A quadriplegic, he recently wrote a book, “Sticking to my Guns,” about dealing with life from a wheelchair. His email address is