Thanks to the state legislature, Upstate deer hunters have a decision to make. To bait, or not to bait? Regardless of what side of the great debate you fall on, it’s a fact that baiting will become a factor in how hunters approach the deer season in Game Zones 1 and 2, making this season one to remember.

With archery season set to open in Game Zone 2 on Sept. 15 and archery and muzzleloader season set to open in Game Zone 1 on Oct. 1, Richard Morton, a wildlife biologist with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources based in Clemson, weighed in on the subject.

“For starters, baiting is not allowed on any public land in the state,” he said. “So we’re only talking about private lands in either zone. But what I anticipate is what’s going to happen when we have a hard-mast failure, and hunters have put corn out. Deer are not stupid; they’re going to eat. So they’re going to go to those corn piles. Somebody who has a patch of private land that borders public land is going to have something because those deer on public land, guess what, there’s no food over there, and there’s easy-to-get food over on those 10 acres.” 

Morton said one downside to baiting is that it doesn’t provide the nutrition of homegrown food, making it similar to eating junk food rather than a well-balanced meal. With that said, one of the other downsides of growing big deer intrinsic to the Upstate is the land itself.

 “Anyway you look at it, all your deer populations – all of your antlers and all the quality deer management stuff, your trophy deer – it all goes back to your soil,” said Morton. “Look at where your big deer are across the country – Illinois, Kansas, even over in Alabama. You’ve got a lot of agriculture. They’ve got that good, rich soil there. They’re not going to come up here in Pickens County, in all this mountainous, poor soil and try and grow corn because the soil is not suitable for it. It’s also not just crops either, the nutrients, the fertility, all that shows up in your deer too.”