JACKSON, Mississippi — Member of the Mississippi Commission on Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks have voted unanimously in favor of baiting deer.
The change came Wednesday when a vote was taken on a proposal to remove language from the current supplemental feeding regulations that states hunters cannot hunt within the line of sight of a feeder. By removing that language, hunters will be able to shoot deer at feeders.
It would allow deer feeders to be placed in plain view of a hunter's stand, as long as it's at least 100 yards away.
"It means the feeder no longer has to be hidden," said Lann Wilf, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Deer Program leader. "It can be in plain view as long as it's 100 yards (or more) away."
The public is allowed to comment on this proposal for the next 30 days.
The change would not be effective until the next commission meeting in mid-September.
Commission chairman Charles Rigdon said the proposal is a reflection of hunters' opinions.
"We ran an email survey maybe two months ago," Rigdon said. "The survey came back, if I remember correct, 62 percent in favor of that line of sight.
"The majority, by far, wanted to see that done."
As surprising as the move was to some, so was the vote itself. The vote was not included in the printed agenda made available to the public. It was also done at the end of the meeting with no verbal discussion. One commissioner said, "...supplemental feeding," and a vote was taken.
Rigdon said the original agenda had been amended to include the proposal vote, but the updated version was not made available to everyone.
"That was not intended," Rigdon said. "There was a mistake on some agendas. It just did not get put on all agendas on accident."
As to the lack of discussion on the topic during the meeting, Rigdon said that was done beforehand.
"That was a normal vote," Rigdon said.
Supplemental feeding has been allowed in Mississippi for a number of years, and over time, restrictions regarding it have been relaxed.
This latest regulation change has drawn criticism from the nonprofit Mississippi Wildlife Federation.
"The Wildlife Federation has always been against hunting over bait," MWF Executive Director Brad Young said. "Hunting by and large is coming under attack.
"By hunting over bait, you give them (anti-hunters) more ammunition. It's something we don't feel good about and are disappointed it came up."
Comments on social media and to The Clarion-Ledger varied.
Opponents call it deer baiting. Supporters call it supplemental feeding.
Kevin Clark of Montpelier wrote, "I think it's a good thing many other states (have) been doing for years. Plus a lot of us have very little time to hunt. Now maybe we can limit out like the hunters that hunt most every day."
David Nichols wants to take it one step further. "Why have a distance rule? Need to throw that out too," he wrote.
Others were not so supportive.
"This is not good for the sport of deer hunting," David Ham wrote.
Terry Thornton doesn't like the idea, either. "This is not hunting; this is shooting," he wrote.
Mississippi wildlife officials estimate hunters kill about 16 percent of the state's deer population — around 1.75 million— every year.
Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, http://www.clarionledger.com