I got a letter recently from a high school student who had chosen deer hunting as the topic for an assigned research report. As part of his research, he asked me to provide answers to a list of written questions. So I did.
The first bunch of questions was pretty straightforward, and I answered them in short order. But then he came at me with this: "How do you feel about planting food plots specifically for deer hunting? Is this or is this not the same as baiting?" This one took me a while to figure out.
On one hand, food plots sure look an awful lot like baiting. But if you define baiting as putting out food with the express purpose of luring deer to a particular spot so you can shoot them, why should it matter if you're hunting over a pile of cracked corn or a cornfield?
On the other hand, I've hunted countless cornfields. None of them were sown specifically to lure deer, but they attracted deer nonetheless, and I certainly took advantage. Yet I never felt as if I was baiting deer. So if hunting over a farmer's cornfield isn't baiting, then why should hunting over any other cornfield be different?
Moreover, I'm sure just about any hunter who does plant food plots will tell you he does so as much to generally improve the habitat for deer as to hunt over. And who can argue with someone wanting to improve the habitat? I have no doubt that if I went to the considerable cost and effort to own and maintain my own piece of land, I'd want to make sure it was attractive to game--and thus provide good hunting and memories for a lifetime. Yet, I don't think I'd plant food plots, per se.
In the end, it's a ticklish subject. If planting food plots is baiting, it's probably mitigated in a number of ways. If it isn't baiting, it sits pretty close to the line with subtle, but important, distinctions.
Anyway, it took me a while to answer this question for our high school friend, and I'll be more than happy to tell you what I wrote. But first, I'd like to hear your opinions. So I'll put his question to you: