November 12, 2008 TRI-CITY AREA — Saturday will dawn the first day of the whitetail deer firearm season and legally remain baitless, much to the frustration of hunters and the farmers who rely on the deer feed business.
Last month, the state's Natural Resources Commission voted unanimously to make an August interim baiting and feeding ban permanent. The measure was set to expire in February 2009.
Imlay City area carrot farmers Les Timmer and Gary Brandt were at the October 9 meeting in Lansing and voiced their concerns, but were unable to sway the commission members' minds.
"They're good people, they have a lot of issues to cover and they do a good job but on this subject I think they've been looking for a reason (to ban baiting) for ten years now and now they have a reason," Timmer said.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issued the baiting ban after a single animal from a Kent County cervid farm tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease. Additional testing is ongoing, state officials say, and no other cases have been discovered.
Like others critical of the DNR's moratorium, Timmer questions why the ban couldn't be limited to just Kent County and the surrounding area.
"The DNR has this in place and it may just stay there," he said of the ban.
About 20 percent of his business is in cull or deer carrots. All together, Timmer raises 260 acres of carrots with a soybean rotation.
Despite having one less tool to attract deer, the DNR claims hunters shouldn't have a problem putting a whitetail in their sights.
"Deer populations in the southern lower peninsula are stable to slightly increased this fall and continue to be well above goals despite increasingly liberal antlerless deer harvest regulations," the state agency said.
Locally, Tim Payne of the DNR reports that population numbers appear to be up slightly in St. Clair and northern Macomb counties compared to 2007. Overall whitetail populations in Lapeer, Genesee and Oakland counties are well over the DNR's desired goals.
"Some of the best hunting for the Southeast Management Unit will be in Lapeer and northern St. Clair counties," Payne said.
"Each of these areas have State Game Areas (SGA)—Lapeer SGA and Port Huron SGA—but are still mostly private lands."
Of course, the weather will play a role in a hunter's success along with the amount of corn still unharvested. The DNR states that hunters have the best luck when about 25 percent of the area's corn is still standing.
Participation in the five-day antlerless firearm season held earlier this year was good but hunters are still being encouraged to take antlerless deer this fall.