Baiting is a common practice used by hunters and wildlife researchers. Bait sites are used to by researchers to aid in deer capture, administer immunocontraceptive agents, and to survey populations. Likewise, hunters use bait sites as an attractant to facilitate deer harvest. Baiting for deer hunting purposes is currently legal in many states throughout the country and recent changes to hunting regulations in the Southern Zone of Georgia now allow baiting by deer hunters. Although legal throughout many parts of the white-tailed deer’s range, baiting is a controversial issue among hunters and the non-hunting public due to potential disease transmission and ethical concerns. One major point of contention among hunters is whether bait sites attract deer from non-baited, adjacent properties to properties where bait sites are maintained and, consequently, increase a deer’s susceptibility to hunter harvest.
Previous research on the effects of baiting on deer movements and harvest rates has shown conflicting results. A study in South Carolina showed that deer travelled long distances to feed at bait sites on an adjacent property. Similarly, a study in Texas demonstrated greater home range sizes for adult male deer on properties with permanent supplemental feeding stations compared to deer on properties where no supplemental feeding occurred. However, other studies have shown that bait sites have minimal effects on home range and core area sizes. Additionally, a study in West Virginia found that baiting did not affect home range size but deer did shift their core areas closer to bait sites when available. Furthermore, a study in suburban-urban Connecticut observed increased harvest rates for archers who used bait as opposed to archers that did not. In contrast, a study in South Carolina found that deer harvest was lower per-unit-effort for hunters in areas where baiting was legal compared to hunters in the portion of the state where baiting was illegal. Due to inconclusive and often conflicting results from previous research on the influence of bait sites on movement patterns and harvest rates, as well as limited sample sizes and a lack of fine-scale temporal and spatial data, little is known about how legalized baiting will affect Georgia’s deer herd.
To evaluate the effects of baiting on deer movements and harvest susceptibility, we will fit 25 adult deer (13 bucks and 12 does) with GPS collars in early-2013. Collars will collect daily locations of marked deer throughout the year and every thirty minutes during the hunting season. Bait sites will be monitored with automated cameras to evaluate the demographics (sex and age) of deer using bait sites and the timing of visitation. Additionally, temporal and spatial data on hunter effort (i.e. when and where they hunted) will be collected to determine the effects of hunter pressure on deer visitation rates and timing of visits to bait sites.
The objectives of this project are to investigate:
- Home range and core area sizes between baiting and non-baiting periods
- Distance of geographic centers-of-activity to bait sites between baiting and non-baiting periods
- Distance travelled by deer to feed at bait sites
- Movements and spatial distribution of deer on a landscape matrix composed of baited and non-baited areas
- Effects of hunter pressure on the timing and visitation rates of deer at bait sites
- Harvest susceptibility at bait sites
Principle Investigator: David B. Stone