This year, deer hunters in the Piedmont are finding themselves confused for the same reason that hunters along the coastal plain and in the mountains have been since 2007. What can they use for bait and what’s not allowed?

For hunting any game species other than birds, North Carolina hunters were not restricted as to the placement of bait or hunting over bait on private lands until 2007, when a new law took effect that made it unlawful to use as bait processed foods in any part of the state that had a bear-hunting season -- except for the lawful disposal of solid waste or the legitimate feeding of domestic animals, livestock, or birds.

This fall, for the first time, this applies statewide because of the expansion of bear seasons to all of North Carolina’s 100 counties.

Today’s bear-hunting law makes it unlawful to hunt bear with the use or aid of any salt, salt lick, grain, fruit, honey, sugar-based material, animal parts or products or other bait.  In fact, law changes this year make it unlawful to use any type of attractants, including scented sprays, aerosols, scent balls, and scent powders while hunting bear.

The 2007 law came about as an agreement between the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and the N.C. Bear Hunters Association. Though the Commission knew at the time the impact the law would have on the hunting of other species, especially deer, it went to the state legislature anyway and took effect on Oct. 1, 2007. It made it unlawful to place processed food products as bait anywhere there is an open bear season. Processed food products include any food substance or flavoring that has been modified from its raw components by the addition of ingredients or by treatment to modify its chemical composition or form or to enhance its aroma or taste. The term includes substances modified by sugar, honey, syrups, oils, salts, spices, peanut butter, grease, meat, bones or blood, as well as extracts of such substances. It also includes sugary products such as candies, pastries, gums and sugar blocks, as well as extracts of such products. But the law also allowed the taking of bears with the use and aid of unprocessed food by releasing dogs in the vicinity of the food source.

The immediate impact of the law on deer hunting in bear-hunting counties resulted in the Commission bypassing parts of the law by adopting a policy resolution in 2007 that basically said the agency would ignore parts of the law and treat commercially available mineral supplements, whether placed with unprocessed food products or by itself, as a processed food product. The Commission also decided to allow the use of commercially available mineral supplements specifically and exclusively marketed for attracting or feeding deer. In addition bear-hunting dogs could legally be released around unprocessed foods, but not around processed foods.

Piedmont counties were exempt from the law because they didn’t have bear seasons.

In early 2014, laws were amended and new ones passed that resulted in a Bear Management Stamp being required for anyone wishing to hunt bear. And the Commission opened bear seasons in every county in the state, allowing limited or unlimited still-hunting – depending on the county where you’re hunting – over unprocessed foods as bait.

To help address the confusion facing Piedmont deer hunters, on Aug. 28, the Commission implemented a revised baiting policy that would allow the placement of commercially available products specifically and exclusively marketed for attracting or feeding deer. In addition, the agency would treat grains, fruits, nuts, vegetables or other materials harvested from plant crops and not modified from their raw components as unprocessed foods.

The end result is this on private lands statewide:

·         Scent items can’t be used for bear hunting;

·         Bear hunters can turn their dogs loose around unprocessed food the entire season;

·         Bear hunters can still-hunt over unprocessed foods for times specified in the regulations digest (pages 46-47), but bears cannot be killed while they are actually eating the bait.

·         The placement of commercially available products specifically and exclusively marketed for attracting or feeding deer is legal;

·         The placement of homemade deer foods and attractants not specifically marketed for attracting or feeding deer, including meat scraps for coyotes, is illegal statewide.

             Bear hunters can turn their dogs loose around unprocessed food the entire season except for those counties listed on page 46 of the Regulations Digest Book)