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Ted Nugent aside, hunters will adapt to bait ban

Ted Nugent told Michigan lawmakers this week that, unless they changed new hunting rules and regulations eliminating baiting for deer and elk, they would see acts of civil disobedience across the state.

Specifically, as reported in the Detroit Free Press, Nugent equated the new rule to a “Rosa Parks moment” that would spark civil disobedience.

While he was way too dramatic, he is right.

Regular readers of this space will remember that, last year, after the Michigan Natural Resources Commission received findings from a task force studying chronic wasting disease, I warned that hunters across Michigan were not going to be happy. And, after the NRC adopted the baiting ban, which begins this year, I said hunters would be shocked when they discovered they would have to change their hunting habits from those they had grown up with.

But back to the civil disobedience.

Nugent could make such a claim because he knows it to be true, based on the experiences of hunters here in Northeast Michigan and ,more specifically, in Deer Management Units 452 and 487, regarding the finding of bovine tuberculosis in many of this region’s deer. The first case was discovered in 1994 and in 1995, more cases were discovered. At that point, Michigan Department of Natural Resources biologists were dealing with a huge problem that was growing at a concerning rate. In 1999, DNR officials banned baiting in the region and, with limited exceptions, that has been the case since.

Initially after the ban went into effect, there were those hunters who, in defiance, refused to change their ways. Corn, carrots, beats, and apples were still spread in a field in an effort to draw deer for a better shot.

While not as noble as protesting for civil rights, protesting war, or marching for a cleaner environment, the purposeful act of defiance by hunters was indeed, by definition, an act of civil disobedience.

To their credit, DNR personnel worked hard with area hunters to gain their understanding about the problems that bait created. Instead of arresting every offender, officers often worked with them to get them to change their old habits. In those early days, there was a lot of “give and take” between both sides.

No one liked it then. No one likes it now. But, eventually, area hunters learned new hunting techniques, the advantage of food plots, and how science could aid in quality deer management in a region.

The truth is that, like any change, there is resistance at first, but eventually people adapt.

The same will be true with a statewide ban on baiting.

Nugent told lawmakers this week that “if they (DNR officials) think they can stop deer from swapping spit, they’re idiots.”

I suspect he’s right.

But what DNR officials were able to do, and do successfully, by preventing baiting was reduce the number of times deer had reason to congregate together.

And, by doing so, they began lowering the overall numbers of deer found with the disease.

Did it work completely? Obviously not.

But it was a start. And so it will be with the fight against CWD.

That is, unless lawmakers step in and reverse the ban on baiting.

Personally, I think adopting a budget by Oct. 1 might have been more prudent for lawmakers to have discussed than reversing the ban on baiting this week.

Then again, perhaps lawmakers were doing a little “bait and switch” of their own by deflecting attention away from the budget … if only for a day.

Bill Speer can be reached at 989-354-3111, ext. 311, or bspeer@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @billspeer13.