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Tonto Rim

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  1. Tonto Rim

    Thoughts on Baiting

    luvdemcoues, thank you for grasping exactly what I was trying to convey. I was beginning to think my words were written in vain. AZLance, no personal offense was intended. I merely picked your handle because it was easily remembered and your post on mixing salt with corn made me laugh. Audsley, your scientific approach is to be lauded and has merit. Care to look at the evolution of archery success rates for elk and mule deer as well? My point is still that if archery deer hunters get too successful, we may very well end up getting further restricted or even permitted just like archery antelope and elk hunters. Certainly our improving success rates may be attributable to a variety of technological and learned hunting technique improvements. Which would be easier to give up (if maintaining current liberal opportunity is important to you), modern bows/trail cameras/ground blinds or flinging corn? Lastly my words are just that - MY WORDS. I am retired. I have no contact with any department personnel involved with this issue and do not seek to defend or to defame the department's position. I had simply hoped my perspective might be thought provoking to a few of you.
  2. Tonto Rim

    Thoughts on Baiting

    Whoa there! I thought there’d be a hornet’s nest under the rock I just kicked, but I didn’t realize how big the nest would be. Ouch! In all seriousness, my post was simply my thoughts on the issue. The beautiful thing about being retired is I can now express my personal thoughts regarding wildlife management (like you all do) without having back everything up with peer-reviewed scientific data or having the position blessed by a chain of command. So if you don’t agree with my opinions, great. I was simply offering another perspective to think about as you kick this hot topic about. I am not going to try to answer all of the questions that were posted – I used to do that for a living and it really wasn’t that fun. But I will respond to some themes that I believe deserve further discussion. Firstly, I am not personally opposed to baiting. I have friends and close family who bait. And no they don’t kill a deer every season. I do think they have better chances than other hunters who don’t sit bait sites. Secondly I agree with all of the following: harvest reporting should be mandatory, the distribution of archery and rifle opportunity should not be based on past questionnaire preferences, target buck to doe ratios should never be managed below 20:100 (one buck to five does), archery javelina tags should be over-the-counter again and tag revenue is definitely a driving factor hunt recommendation considerations. Agreed. On to the question of is the bait ban consideration really a matter of disease prevention or limiting hunter success. I believe it is both, however if you reread my original post you will note I spent only one paragraph on disease and several on hunter success. That was intentional. I believe the hunt success enhancement effect of using bait is the main focus, although the disease issue is real. Yes transmissible diseases can be spread innumerable ways including direct animal-animal contact; saliva on forage vegetation, scrapes, single source-point waters and many others. It is real easy for all of us to say – the additional risk to disease transmission presented by the use of edible baits is insignificant in light of the above – so it’s not a problem. Now put yourself in the shoes of the Department’s veterinarian, big game chief or even director. Your job, your mission is first and foremost to look out for the well-being of wildlife populations and not necessarily worry about whether the AZLance’s of the world are happy campers. Are you so willing to stick your neck out and say baiting absolutely won’t cause additional risk of disease transmission and therefore should be permissible? Deer diseases are real, just ask the folks in eastern Montana about EHD and blue tongue. Just because we’ve been blessed not to have an epizootic doesn’t mean we won’t. It’s like saying if you regularly use the restroom at McDonalds, touching various surfaces and not washing your hands, and then munch into your big mac and fries you probably won’t pick up smallpox. But it’s still not a safe practice and you might get something nasty. So why take the chance? Anyhow, the disease issue is the Department’s fight to justify and not mine. I’m done with it. My personal issue is the potential for lost archery deer hunting opportunity if baiting is allowed to remain. I firmly believe that the use of edible baits is the reason for the increased archery whitetail hunter success and harvest. I have no research studies to back that up – it is simply my opinion based on my experience. I also believe that when push comes to shove with distribution of harvests – archers will lose. Why? Economics. Go to hunt Arizona 2012 on the Department’s web site and look at the historical sale of archery and general deer tags from 1990 to now. All except for a couple of years the Department sold between 20,000 and 24,000 archery deer tags with no long term trend of increasing or decreasing. Archery tag sales are essentially flat over that time period. Now look at general tags issued for the same time period. They go from 76,000 down to 36,000 in 2004 and back up to 43,000 in 2011. Don’t you think the Department would like to get back the revenue from the extra 33,000 tags issued in 1990 and not issued last year? You bet they would. If deer populations continue to slowly increase like they seem to be doing, do you really think the Department wants to give those extra bucks to archers whose growth potential for tag sales is essentially zero? No, they want those general rifle hunters back in the field. Hence my premise, if we as archers continue to be more successful and take significant numbers of whitetail bucks, the Department will reduce our opportunity and therefore our harvests so that general tags may be increased. Bet on it. The only way to counteract the future loss of our opportunity is to reduce our effectiveness. What’s the best way to be less effective at killing whitetail bucks (IMO) – don’t bait. So there you have it. I get to have an opinion. I love archery deer hunting for whitetails. I love buying a tag over the counter. I used to love hunting in Aug-Sept, December and January. Now I only get to hunt in Aug-Sept and January. I don’t want to lose any more season days. In fact I would love to get December back. The only way I think (again my opinion) that will happen is if baiting is prohibited. I know there are many other ways to control harvest other than simply banning bait, but I don’t think the Department will recommend them. I think it is an either/or situation. Continue to bait and lose opportunity. Or give up bait and maintain opportunity or even get some back. I’ve said my piece. You decide for yourself.
  3. Tonto Rim

    Thoughts on Baiting

    In response to the now quite lengthy thread regarding the apparent AZGFD recommendation to prohibit baiting, I have decided to come out of my cave and offer comment. As a disclaimer, I am a retired AZGFD wildlife manager so some of you may automatically disregard anything I write as propaganda. So be it. For those of you with open minds, read on. Firstly let me concede that baiting, even if correctly done, is not an absolute guarantee of a successful hunt. But I hope you will also agree that baiting is a darn sight more effective than just slinking through the piney woods in hopes of stalking up within bow range of a deer. In fact, I think we can all agree that baiting is arguably one of the most effective tactics to take a whitetail buck. If it wasn’t, I don’t think so many of you would be riled up at the thought of losing baiting as a lawful hunting method. Now for those who seem believe the bait ban consideration is all part of a greater conspiracy to legislate hunters out of the means to be successful, I believe you are wrong. Trail cameras, sitting water, tree stands, ground blinds and the like are not the next logical next step beyond this recommendation. This is a stand-alone issue that is about two things; disease transmission and archery hunter success (especially as it applies to Coues whitetail deer). That’s it. Yes there are many people that would gladly take away your and my privilege to hunt. But those kinds of people don’t write rules for AZGFD. Trust me on this. The Department is far from perfect, but the last thing they want to do is regulate you into another leisure time pursuit. If you all quit buying licenses and tags, they are out of funding and out of jobs. Many serious wildlife diseases including Chronic Wasting Disease, Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease, Blue Tongue and the like are transmissible through contact with infected body fluids, including saliva. Therefore, any human activity that congregates animals and increases the likelihood that they will swap spit is generally a bad idea. I know the nay-Sayers among you have claimed that if disease transmission is really behind this, then why isn’t salt also being considered for prohibition under the current recommendation? Quite simply salt and salt derivatives are naturally antibiotic and antiviral. The nasty bugs that cause these diseases simply can’t persist on a salt block or in a salt lick. Therefore salt does not present a serious threat of disease transmission. Not so for edible grain baits. Germs transferred through saliva will persist for quite some time on bait and in the soil where the bait was placed, providing a ready source of transmission to future animals visiting the site. I agree with most of you that CWD, if it ever enters this state, will not be the result of a bait site. But the widespread use of edible baits could significantly increase the spread of the disease if it ever got here. Are you willing to risk the health of our deer and elk herds for the sake of increasing your ability to be successful? The other real issue with baiting is its’ effect on archery hunter success. Everyone who reads this post that has actually used bait knows full well that the primary baiting target is Coues whitetail deer. While baiting also works for turkey, javelina and other species, the vast majority of hard-core baiters are after whitetail bucks. And the vast majority of those are archery hunters. So what’s the problem? Loss of seasons and/or over-the-counter tags is what. Quite simply, we archery deer hunters have enjoyed over-the-counter tags and multiple open seasons in units south of the Colorado River for one simple reason - we haven’t killed enough deer to matter. Even with compound bows, range finders, ground blinds, and hunting on water we haven’t killed enough deer to matter. With the widespread use of bait, however, we do kill enough whitetail bucks to matter. That’s where the rubber meets the road for this issue. When we get too successful at killing deer with archery tackle, we either have to give up opportunity or we have to give up the methods that make us so successful. That’s the deal with using a “primitive” weapon. You get unparalleled opportunity as long as you aren’t too successful. You get too successful, you lose the opportunity. Taking a quick look at some statewide numbers, the number of archery deer hunters has remained relatively stable at about 17,000 from 1990 to the present. Over that same time period, the whitetail buck archery harvest has increased five-fold. What do you think makes today’s archer so much more successful than those of just 20 years ago at killing whitetail bucks? In comparison, the mule deer archery harvest over the same time period has remained essentially unchanged or even dropped a bit. I happen to be very familiar with Units 22 and 23 and have hunted whitetails on and off there for over 35 years. Back in the day, nobody I knew of used bait. Over the last decade bait sites started showing up more and more. Today, bait sites are everywhere. As I still hunt and explore new areas to hunt, I feel like I am trespassing through private hunting “claims” where each baiter defends his or her territory. One hunter I ran into last January told me he had been baiting a particular location for seven or eight years, implying I should respect his claim to those national forest lands and stay out. This sentiment is quite understandable given the effort in dollars and hours that were expended backpacking in quantities of corn, numerous times, to keep the site active in preparation for the hunt. The comments I have read in this forum regarding baiting that allude to a “handful” of bait here and there are disingenuous. We all know that to be effective, bait must be laid in quantity and must be regularly refreshed. Just ask the feed store in Payson how much grain they sell to hunters. I guarantee you the amount is measured in tons, and not in handfuls. Let’s take a look at some recent harvest numbers for Units 22 and 23. Archery hunter success has increased in both units from 2007 to 2011, 3% to 7% in Unit 22 and 4% to 7% in Unit 23. Of special note, the annual whitetail buck harvest in Unit 23 has more than doubled from the mid-thirties to over 70 during the same time period. Not only are hunters getting more successful in this unit, but more hunters are showing up. Those numerical increases may seem insignificant on face value, but if one realizes that in a stable population, each additional 10 bucks harvested by archers equals about 50 less rifle hunters that can take to the field the next year, this increased harvest is quite significant to wildlife managers planning their hunt recommendations. In order to properly manage the whitetail buck harvest, these managers are forced to either cut rifle tags, or reduce the opportunity or effectiveness of archery hunters. Which option do you think will be chosen? So for those of you who are in favor of baiting and are preparing to fight to keep that privilege, I ask you one simple question. Are you willing to give up your over-the-counter archery tag and your liberal season dates to keep baiting? Because I believe that will be the end result in some units if baiting is allowed to remain. Baiting, while not a sure-fire technique, is still effective enough to raise archery hunter success rates to levels where archery hunter numbers need to be controlled. I would much rather buy my tag over-the-counter, have the ability to hunt August-September, December and January, and forfeit the use of bait. In my book, that’s a dang good trade. For those of you who think you can have your apple (or cob) and eat it too, you have another thing coming. Units 22 and 23 have already lost their December archery seasons in response to increased whitetail harvests. How much opportunity are you willing to sacrifice in order to maintain your use of bait? How big a fan of baiting would you be if you had to put in the draw for an archery deer tag and were limited to a single 14 day season? Think about it before you decide on this issue. If you decide you still want to defend the use bait, remember what you are likely giving up. Will it be worth it?