Special Report: Should Baiting Be Legal?

Lawmakers in Jackson are considering a bill that might cut the number of deer to a more manageable number.

The simplest solution for culling some of the deer herd in Mississippi is to allow hunters to kill more during the season.

There are several ideas being tossed about that could make that happen.

Like thousands of other Mississippians, Shawn Burkhalter spends a good deal of his time every winter in the woods, searching for that elusive big buck.

That's where we found him, in a hunting box deep in the woods, staring down a patch of land covered in corn. It's a way some hunters try to lure more deer to their hunting grounds using a feeder to get them in. One problem: it's illegal. But Burkhalter doesn't seem to care.

"I already got two tickets. They know where I hunt," Burkhalter said. "It doesn't bother me. I just think it's a joke. They might as well legalize it."

The state legislature is considering doing just that. And some believe it might be just the way to get the state's deer population to a manageable number.

Rep. Billy Nicholson is an insurance agent and an avid hunter, so, pardon the pun; he has more than one dog in this hunt.

He was one of the leaders in getting legislation allowing hunting over baited fields through the state house, and he believes it could help lower the overall number of deer.

"There are a few more hunters who would do it, like myself," said Nicholson. "I don't hunt over bait now. If it were legalized, I would."

And so, many believe, would other hunters. But there are detractors, those who say hunting over a baited field isn't hunting at all. They say it's more like shooting fish in a barrel.

Even some of those who believe it would cut down the deer population aren't sure how they feel about it.

"It would probably increase the number of deer killed, but I'm not sure I'm for or against it," said Ron James of Lauderdale County Farm Supply.

But ask Burkhalter. He'll tell you it's just the right way to kill more deer, and in turn, make the roads a little safer.

"A couple of months ago, my sister hit one," said Burkhalter. "Last night I almost hit a six point. And the hunters could at least decrease the chance of that happening."

The bill pending in the legislature would allow hunting over baited fields in about 30 counties in Mississippi, including every county in WTOK's viewing area.

It still must go through the state senate and get the governor's approval before it could become law.

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