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Methods of baiting deer have some on opposite sides

| Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

These are two groups headed in opposite directions.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission — concerned about “unnaturally” concentrating deer at a time when chronic wasting disease is spreading across the country — has discussed the idea of banning the use of urine-based scents.

At the same time, a dozen state lawmakers have signed a bill that would legalize baiting statewide. Currently, that's legal only in certain parts of southeastern Pennsylvania, where it's being used in hopes it will bring lots of deer together at one place.

The urine issue got a lot of attention last month. Game Commission veterinarian Walt Cottrell told commissioners the urine used in those products comes from deer farms, one of the prime sources of wasting disease.

Given that, he suggested the board might want to ban its use.

The board's going to at least explore the idea. Commissioner Jay Delaney of Luzerne County wants staff to determine the feasibility of enacting regulations that would prohibit the use of urine-based attractants by deer hunters. Specifically, he's asked staff to figure out whether a ban might work to protect deer and, just as importanty, whether the commission could even enforce it.

A report is due when the board holds its next work group meeting April 1.

The idea of legalizing baiting, meanwhile, is being touted most vigorously by Rep. Gary Haluska, a Cambria County Democrat and minority chairman of the House game and fisheries committee. House Bill 679 would legalize “any shelled or eared corn used as an enticement for wildlife or bait for game.”

He said the bill is a common sense one. Currently, if a hunter sets up 50 yards from a field of standing corn — counting on that crop to draw deer — he's not considered to be hunting over bait. If he puts shelled corn on the ground 50 yards away and sets up in the same stand, that's baiting and he could be fined, he said.

That doesn't make a lot of sense, said Haluska, who said he and friends have hunted over bait in Ohio, where the practice is legal in places.

“It's crazy to even worry about it. I just don't see the need to make it illegal. If there's corn in an area, and you're hunting near it, so what?” Haluska said.

The bill has been referred to the House game and fisheries committee for review.

“I don't know if we can get this to run right now, but we're going to try,” Haluska said.

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