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MN Supreme Court calls "illegal game baiting" laws ambiguous


Scott M

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You say 'deer bait'; I say 'green manure'

by Dave Orrick, St. Paul Pioneer Press

11/22/2011

The DNR called the huge piles of pumpkins in front of the deer stand illegal bait.

The hunter said they were fertilizer for his farm.

On Monday, the Minnesota Court of Appeals sided with the hunter.

The court reversed the deer baiting conviction of a Hibbing farmer whose family had been cited at least twice by the state Department of Natural Resources for baiting deer with piles of pumpkins.

20091107__091108%20Pumpkins.jpg

The pumpkins, left on a field within shooting range of deer stands, were "green manure" designed to fertilize the infertile Iron Range soil as part of an ecologically responsible crop rotation, the farmer-hunter and his attorney successfully argued.

The court decision declares a portion of Minnesota law that deals with illegal baiting "ambiguous" and likely will lead to a legislative review of the statute, a lawmaker said.

The ruling appears to negate - under certain circumstances - a portion of the state deer hunting regulations manual that states: "Piling harvested pumpkins or other food from a food plot is one example of baiting."

The DNR disagrees with the decision and is considering an appeal to the state Supreme Court, a spokesman said.

The department said it does not believe the ruling affects other active cases and invalidates the entire anti-baiting law.

But it does vindicate Donald Hansen.

Hansen fumed when a DNR officer cited his 14-year-old nephew in 2009 for hunting over piles of more than 1,000 pumpkins. Although the case eventually

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was dismissed because his nephew was a juvenile, Hansen insisted DNR officials incorrectly told him his excess pumpkins had to be sent to a landfill once he harvested them.

Last year, Hansen flouted the DNR and hunted from a ground blind overlooking a different field piled with pumpkins. He said he had alerted a DNR official of his plan.

"I intentionally got cited," Hansen said Monday.

After he was fined and his rifle confiscated, Hansen fought the case in St. Louis County Court. He lost and was fined $385. He appealed and, on Monday, won.

The court found that parts of the law prohibiting "placing" food in a field but providing an exception for farmers are unclear.

"The statute apparently gives with one hand and takes with the other," Judge Roger M. Klaphake wrote for the three-judge panel.

The case is the first to test the 2007 law.

"I think we will have to revisit it," said state Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, who chairs the House Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee. "This is really a tough issue."

McNamara said it's a delicate balance between the rights of farmers and complaints of hunters who fear deer are being baited away from their land.

"If it's legal in the agricultural practice, we can't make it illegal in the hunting practice," he said.

The case against Hansen raised the issue of where the line should be drawn when game are attracted to food people grow on their land. It also comes as complaints of deer baiting - viewed as giving hunters too great an advantage over their quarry - appear to be at an all-time high statewide, according to the DNR.

Laying out feed to attract deer during hunting season is illegal in Minnesota. However, an exception is made if the food is left as the result of "normal or accepted farming."

So, hunting over cornfields that have yet to be harvested is legal; trucking a pile of corn into the woods is not.

Complicating the matter is state law also allows hunters to plant "food plots" for deer - and hunt over them - as long as those plants are not harvested.

Hansen's case fell in between all this.

For years, Hansen's family has raised and sold pumpkins for Halloween. After Oct. 31, their crop becomes virtually worthless, Hanson and his attorney argued.

At that time, the family uses the unsold pumpkins as "green manure" on one of three fields that has been left fallow for the year.

The family has a deer stand and a ground blind overlooking all the fields.

Hansen's green manure rotation wasn't just legal; it was recommended years ago by Kendall Dykhuis, an agronomist with the University of Minnesota Extension Service who testified for Hansen.

Chris Niskanen, a DNR spokesman, said the department has no complaint with green manure.

"We support the concept of green manure, and we've dealt with this issue in the past in Red River Valley with sugar beets," said Niskanen, who reported and photographed the 2009 incident when he was a Pioneer Press reporter. "Typically, they either plow them under or spread them out over an entire field. Taking an agricultural product and spreading it out over the entire width and breadth of a field is not a problem."

Hansen's pumpkins were piled up, he testified, because the field was too wet for equipment to plow them into the field.

Hansen said he was "thrilled" at the victory.

"Hopefully, this says something about property rights in the state," Hansen said. "Farmers have a right to farm their land in the manner they choose as long as you use proper techniques, and the DNR can't tell them otherwise."

Hansen said he hunted briefly this year but didn't shoot any deer. The firearms season in northern Minnesota ended Sunday.

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1st thing that came to mind was he could've waited to put them there after January 1st or after muzzy season, they won't decay much until Aprilish I would assume, I doubt November brings on much decaying or dump em, disc them, and plow them under ? We definitely don't need baiting being ok'ed here in MN, people are bellyaching loud enough about a lack of deer due to too many bonus tags or wolves or whatever, allowed to bait with unlimited tags would only add to the deer shortage especially if we get hammered by winter. Maybe all thee illegal baiting already going on is punishing our lower deer numbers the way it is, who knows. Crops are gone and plowed, picture baiting this muzzleloader season and what that picture might look like. Dump them in a pile like that is not like a manure spreader, do farmers pile their manure in 1 spot, no.

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1st thing that came to mind was he could've waited to put them there after January 1st or after muzzy season, they won't decay much until Aprilish I would assume, I doubt November brings on much decaying or dump em, disc them, and plow them under ?

By April the deer will probably have them all eaten anyway!

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Dump them in a pile like that is not like a manure spreader, do farmers pile their manure in 1 spot, no.

They do if their field is too wet & they want to get it out of their yard...

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Maybe all thee illegal baiting already going on is punishing our lower deer numbers the way it is, who knows.

Maybe baiting leads to higher deer populations. maybe for every one that gets shot over a bait pile, 10 more eat and are healthier going into the lean winter months, increasing survival rates.

I'm not saying this is the case, but its possible.

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Whatever Lightning cmon, It's December thru April they need to survive, it isn't like a guy after the hunt keeps hauling shell corn a mile off the road the rest of the winter. I picture the deer wasting a day or 2 wondering if the pile will hit the refresh button. I'm sorry I despise baiting as a hunting method in Minnesota. My grandpa's taught me to care about the animals not myself. Yes I'm way old fashioned but if you need bait in a state with at times over a million animals I feel sorry for you. 105 bow days, 9 or 16 rifle days, 16 muzzy days, we have ample opportunity to harvest deer without it. Thank you MN for saying no to this method of hunting I mean shooting.

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I dont bait either. No desire to, even where I hunt in WI, where it's legal. I always just find it ironic that if the stem was still connected to those pumpkins, it would be totally fine (food plot), but if you walk up and cut the stem, its baiting. I could leave all the fallen apple off of my apple trees lay in my yard, but if I pick them or pick them up and set them at the edge of the yard, so i can mow the grass, shoot a deer that is eating them, I'm baiting.

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Most food for bait isn't good for deer anyways. Thier stomachs can't digest most farm food to do them any good. Some dead deer after getting examined found their stomachs full of bait and died of starvation! 2c

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My last and I promise comment on baiting and this pumpkin guy I don't have a say either way it's a bizarre story but with all of our technology, weaponry, hunting the rut,wolves,disease,warmer rifle hunts, etc. etc. etc. Roughly 600,000 licenses sold each year, baiting shouldn't even be a topic of conversation, so when you see the bucks of tecomate and them picking over trophy buck after trophy buck eating bait if that fires you up to hunt cmon, I say then go where you can bait and you find out it isn't this wonderful thing, we have nocturnal enough deer if they have 200 pounds of corn waiting for them daily they'll really figure out eat it at night and don't travel far, baiting would open another can of disgruntled hunters the bait is awesome people and the bait is ruining my area, concentrating deer to a 5 foot by 5 foot pile is not ideal. It would be the last step in eliminating fair chase for all.

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How many 3 1/2 year old + bucks walk into a corn/pumpkin pile to feed during day light hours during the rut in MN?

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How many 3 1/2 year old + bucks walk into a corn/pumpkin pile to feed during day light hours during the rut in MN?

In Minnesota? None I would hope!

I dont hunt up north but I would think baiting could be effective in the big woods. Afterall if they get the does in, a mature buck could follow. Also baiting during the cold and snowy end of December could be very effective for a mature deer I would think!

I dont think it would be a great way to take a 3 1/2 year old plus buck either... but reguardless, I hope MN never allows baiting.

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I dont think it would be a great way to take a 3 1/2 year old plus buck either... but reguardless, I hope MN never allows baiting.

I haven't and from what I have seen in WI, where it's legal, I have yet to see a 3 1/2 yr old + deer come into 5 gallons of corn during daylight hours. I personally am not a fan of baiting either but I also believe the DNR is never going to alleviate the problem. The deer you or I want to shoot and hunt for aren't going to get shot by persons using bait. They don't get old by being stupid. Then again I also believe that the DNR over regulates everything and should simplify their regulations so a person doesn't have to be a Rhodes Scholar to understand the laws. In this care the DNR doesn't have a leg to stand on IMO based on how the law is written. The guys isn't breaking the law.

I was in Manitoba Canada last year hunitng geese and ducks. The field we were hunting was a cut wheat field that had flooded because of rain in late Sept. It was loaded with wheat from normal farming practice but the farmer couldn't get the crop out because of the water. Is that baiting??

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I don't like the concept of baiting either. But I do have to say I find it fascinating that something can be illegal and considered unethical in one state, and a fairly common and legal practice just across the border.

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I'm wondering what any WI hunters or other states that do allow baiting think it effects things, I'm not really for or against it. If legal all things being equal everybody CAN do it so no advantages to speak of. I have had food plots and deer like it as much or more than corn if you have correct stuff planted but to be honest my success didn't go up with it, so if baiting is illegal so should food plots in my opinion.

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I'm wondering what any WI hunters or other states that do allow baiting think it effects things, I'm not really for or against it. If legal all things being equal everybody CAN do it so no advantages to speak of. I have had food plots and deer like it as much or more than corn if you have correct stuff planted but to be honest my success didn't go up with it, so if baiting is illegal so should food plots in my opinion.

Not to be difficult but what's considered a food plot? 10 acres of corn that isn't harvested or hunted over. IMO that's "smart baiting". The whole issue can be made to look silly by any lawyer in the court of law. What about hunting over acorns or an unpicked apple orchard.

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Don't have a rule book here but I would assume anything planted, I thought you also could not harvest it or move it and hunt over it (like pumpkins) . A field of corn etc not considered a food plot I don't think? Maybe somebody can copy paste definition from regs ( using my phone its a pain or I would) . But I know for fact my good plots (this summer ) have attracted more deer than pile of corn so in my opinion what's difference.

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But I know for fact my good plots (this summer ) have attracted more deer than pile of corn so in my opinion what's difference.

The difference is food plotters are holier than thou, and baiters are disgusting pigs. You see, if you spend a lot of time an money on your food plot its ok, but if you just dump cheap corn and it only takes you a few minutes per week, then it isn't ok. (heavy sarcasm). Either way, its hunting over a non-natural food source.

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straight from the dnr hand book

“Bait or feed” is grain, fruit, vegetables, nuts, hay, or other food that

is capable of attracting or enticing deer and that has been placed by a

person.

• Hunters are not allowed to use or hunt over bait or feed or hunt in

the vicinity of bait or feed if the hunter knows about or has reason

to know about the placement of the bait or feed.

• A person otherwise in compliance with this section who is hunting

on private or public property that is adjacent to the property where

bait or feed is present is not in violation if the person has not partic-

73

Deer - GENERAL

ipated in, been involved with, or agreed to baiting or feeding wildlife

on the adjacent property.

• An area is considered baited for 10 days after complete removal of

the bait or feed.

• Liquid scents, sprays, salt, and minerals, are not considered bait

or feed.

• Any attractant that contains grain or other food sources is considered

bait or feed.

• This restriction

does not apply to foods that have not been placed by

an individual and result from normal

or accepted farming, forest management,

wildlife food plantings, orchard management,

or similar land

management

activities. Piling harvested pumpkins or other food from

a food plot is one example of baiting.

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"wildlife food plantings" and there in lays the legality of food plots....the "is food plots baiting" discussion has run its course over and over and over on these forums. Let's refrain from going over this again this year.

The original post and the ensuing appeal will mean changes in the hunting regulations for next year I am sure.

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Youse guys bait bears in Minnesota. Perfectly legal and considered ethical. Baiting deer is unlawful and unethical, but the stores are full of stuff that looks like bait to me.

Someone please explain the ethical difference between baiting bears and baiting deer, because I don't get it.

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Great point, as a bear and deer hunter it sure feels different than tossing a bag of corn out (lot more work time etc involved) but valid point Del...

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Quote:
They do if their field is too wet & they want to get it out of their yard... [/quote']

Yup a farmer down the road from my house does this every year and has already piled up manure in his corn fields getting ready to spread throughout the winter/spring.

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I with the farmer/hunter on this one. Mainly because if he actually was trying to bait deer, he would not have made such a big pile in the open and also would not have called the CO and said he was going to be hunting over a huge pile of Pumpkins. Also, piling the pumpkins up and calling it green manure does not make near as much sense as spreading them out, but there are issues that can arise making spreading them out very difficult, such as equipment breakdowns, wet fields etc.

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To me a food plot and baiting are only different in the fact that unless you have money you can't do it. People who can't afford to own hunting land can't plant food plots. Just another way for the people who have their own land to keep the deer from using public land as much. Why should a guy be able to plant food plots on the 80 acres next to the public 80 I hunt and I am not allowed to put feed out to try and counteract his effort to draw them all away from my hunting area?

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I with the farmer/hunter on this one. Mainly because if he actually was trying to bait deer, he would not have made such a big pile in the open and also would not have called the CO and said he was going to be hunting over a huge pile of Pumpkins. Also, piling the pumpkins up and calling it green manure does not make near as much sense as spreading them out, but there are issues that can arise making spreading them out very difficult, such as equipment breakdowns, wet fields etc.
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