Legal to Bait Deer? Yes or No?

South Carolina hunters are trying to figure out what’s going on with the Palmetto State’s laws about baiting deer and hunting with bait.

A ruling by a county magistrate and South Carolina Attorney General’s Office overturned a prohibition about using bait for deer hunting in two zones in the Upstate region. The state Department of Natural Resources has been fielding calls and questions from hunters about the ruling and decades-old prohibition.

The Edgefield Advertiser had this story about the situation.

Due to the ruling, the DNR says it will have “less priority placed on enforcing the statute due to the confusing nature of the law and a diminished DNR work force of 192 officers. There were no changes to wildlife management area regulations and it remains unlawful to bait for deer, or to hunt deer over bait on all wildlife management area lands statewide.”

The full DNR statement:

Recent decisions by a Greenwood County magistrate and the state Attorney General’s Office have overturned the long standing prohibition against hunting deer over bait on private lands in the Upstate. It has been unlawful to hunt deer over bait on private lands in the counties that now comprise Game Zones 1 & 2 since the state began stocking deer in the Upstate in the 1950s.

The events leading to the current situation were put in motion by Act 286 of 2008, which was enacted into law by the General Assembly. Prior to 2008, the prohibition on hunting deer over bait on private lands was contained in regulations written by DNR which stated that big game could not “be baited or hunted over bait.” Act 286 struck the regulations and enacted the prohibition into law. When the law was amended it stated that it was unlawful to “bait for deer.”

Under the current law it is unlawful to bait for deer in the Upstate, but it is not unlawful to hunt deer over bait. The recent decisions of the magistrate and the Attorney General’s Office lend themselves to the conclusion that it is lawful to hunt deer over bait, but unlawful to bait for deer. These decisions have the unintended consequence of making existing law confusing for both the public and DNR law enforcement officers and staff.

Deer baiting on private lands is still unlawful in Game Zones 1 & 2 and remains a vital concern of the department, however, there will be less priority placed on enforcing the statute due to the confusing nature of the law and a diminished DNR work force of 192 officers. There were no changes to wildlife management area regulations and it remains unlawful to bait for deer, or to hunt deer over bait on all wildlife management area lands statewide.

The department will seek to have the law clarified during the upcoming legislative session which begins in January 2013.

For more about Game Zones in South Carolina check http://www.dnr.sc.gov/hunting/zones/index.html.

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