Published October 21, 2007, 12:00 AM

Rules misunderstanding: Deer baiting still banned in Minnesota

Hunters gathered around the counter at Chalstrom’s Bait and Tackle on Tuesday, but they weren’t looking at photos of nice bucks. They were trying to sort out Minnesota’s deer-baiting regulations.

By: Sam Cook, Duluth News Tribune

Hunters gathered around the counter at Chalstrom’s Bait and Tackle on Tuesday, but they weren’t looking at photos of nice bucks. They were trying to sort out Minnesota’s deer-baiting regulations.

“It sounds pretty bizarre. It just doesn’t make much sense,” said Sue Chalstrom, owner of the shop.

A new provision in the baiting rules, designed to alleviate confusion in one area, has instead caused widespread misinterpretation among hunters.

“It certainly has led to confusion,” said Ken Soring, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources regional enforcement supervisor in Grand Rapids.

At issue are two paragraphs found on page 72 of the DNR’s hunting regulations synopsis. After spelling out general definitions of baiting and bait, the synopsis reads, “The restriction does not apply to a person hunting on their own property, when the person has not participated in, been involved with, or agreed to feeding wildlife on adjacent land owned by another person.”

That’s the new provision this year. Following that paragraph is this one: “Hunters are not allowed to use bait or hunt in the vicinity of bait that the hunter knows about or has reason to know about or hunt in the vicinity where bait has been placed within the previous 10 days.”

The most confusing point seems to be the sentence that begins, “The restriction does not apply to a person hunting on their own property…”

“Some people are reading that as meaning the baiting restriction doesn’t apply if I’m hunting on my own land,” the DNR’s Soring said.

That simply is not the case.

“Clearly, the intent is that people not use bait,” Soring said.

And that’s how the DNR will enforce the baiting laws this fall.

“We got a letter of direction from [DNR enforcement chief] Mike Hamm saying we will investigate and enforce the baiting law,” Soring said.

The base fine for hunting deer over a baited area in St. Louis County is $300, with additional court costs of $82. If the hunter has killed a deer over bait, an additional $500 restitution charge will apply, said DNR conservation officer Kipp Duncan, who covers eastern Duluth. And a hunter’s gun and hunting equipment could be confiscated as evidence.

“I have had questions on this since the 2007 regulations came out, but since the article came out Sunday [in the Duluth News Tribune], I’ve gotten many phone calls,” Duncan said.

The way the law is written now puts DNR enforcement officials in an awkward position in enforcing it, Soring said.

“I think we’re going to go in there and try to have that wording changed, so it’s not that confusing for people hunting on private land,” Soring said.

But it’s too late to get anything changed for this year. Any change would take effect for the 2008 season.

Illegal baiting for deer is fairly prevalent, Duncan said.

“Without putting a percentage on it, I’d say that there’s a large number of people who are hunting over bait, knowing they’re doing it wrong,” he said. “I have yet to come up to somebody hunting over bait that didn’t know they couldn’t do it.”

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