COLUMBIA — You can lure deer with treats before you shoot them in Aiken County, but not in northern counties like Edgefield.
The inequity prompted an area legislator to push to allow the controversial practice in upstate zones where it’s prohibited.
“My primary reason for introducing the legislation is I think we ought to treat everybody the same,” said Sen. Shane Massey, R-Edgefield.
“I’ve received many phone calls from residents from Edgefield, Saluda, some in McCormick, saying, ‘why can they bait in Aiken, when we can’t bait right here?’ Massey told a Senate subcommittee Thursday.
He acknowledged experts’ warnings that baiting spreads diseases, such as chronic wasting disease, in states such as Michigan.
But he added, “The problem is we’re dealing with hypotheticals, things that have not become an issue (in South Carolina), particularly in the Lowcountry where we have had baiting. Still, senators weren’t sold on Massey’s bill, S. 177. So they sent it without a recommendation to the full Fish, Game and Wildlife Committee for further review.
Wildlife advocates from the Quality Deer Management Association and the S.C. Wildlife Association argued that the practice skews deer gender ratios, spreads disease, hurts native-habitat management efforts, gives hunting a bad public image and raises ethical dilemmas about a fair chase.
So panel members wondered: Instead of permitting deer baiting across the state, would it be better to uniformly prohibit it? “In a perfect world, if SCDNR (The S.C. Department of Natural Resources) could wave a magic wand, we’d do that,” said Breck Carmichael, deputy director of the state DNR.