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Opinion: Baiting, Ted Nugent and South Dakota regulations

Have you ever looked at an issue which you firmly believed in and asked yourself if you were wrong?

After reading how our legislators wouldn't even modify our nonresident small game (pheasant) licenses, I asked myself if I was way off on my recommendation to make the license good for the entire season as other states do.

Well, I still haven't changed my opinion on this issue as I don't believe that boosting our economy is a bad idea. A late-season rooster pheasant survivor would say this: "Throw your best laid plan at us, but it isn't going to work."

When it comes to hunting in general, baiting is against the law in South Dakota. Some states allow it, some states don't. In looking at our South Dakota game, I would guess that whitetail deer, turkeys, pheasants and waterfowl would be most vulnerable to baiting. South Dakota's policy is OK by me.

Baiting is what I would call a gray area. If I dump a load of corn by my deer stand, I'm baiting. If the farmer dumps corn in his usual place, and I hunt near his corn pile, the complexion of the matter changes. Over the years I've seen corn piles covered with pheasants, mallards and deer. I've had farmers tell me to shoot game off corn piles. For the record, I never have.

Like I said, it's a gray area.

Have I ever been involved in baiting? The African kudu, an elk-sized animal with splendid spiral horns, is nicknamed "The Gray Ghost." He has a habit of appearing and disappearing before one can take a shot. On my first African hunt, I wanted a good kudu bull in the worst way, but because of my tremor, I couldn't hold steady enough, and there wasn't time to use the tripod. After two days of fruitless pursuit, Dirk, my professional hunter, suggested baiting, which is legal in Africa.

Dirk radioed for a load of oranges while he and BaBa built the blind. By mid-afternoon we were ready to go. During the late afternoon, cows and young bulls began to show up. Though we were 75 yards away, they were extremely cautious as they didn't like the blind. At sunset, a big bull came in and I dropped him with a single shot. I'd guess most South Dakotans don't care for baiting as I received some critical mail about my kudu. However, when in Rome, one may do as the Romans do. Baiting is a huge part of African hunting.

Ted Nugent, the rock star professional hunter, put me on today's topic. On his television program a few years ago, Nugent had placed his blind over a spot in a corn field where the combine or truck had accidently dropped a few bushels of corn. While baiting was illegal where Nugent hunted, he whole-heartedly endorsed finding such places and using them to one's advantage. At the time I thought that Uncle Ted was pushing his luck a wee bit.

While watching his television program last week, Nugent emphatically stated that baiting was by far his favorite form of hunting. He then went on to say that the states that permit baiting have had no problems whatsoever, and that if our home state didn't allow baiting, we should let our representatives know about this bit of bureaucratic mismanagement. Ted was fired up! In discussing the issue with Betsy, my wife, she said and I quote, "Real hunters don't need to bait.' "

As previously mentioned, I don't have a problem with South Dakota's baiting restriction, and I am not going to endorse Ted Nugent's view, although I admire his enthusiasm and political activism.

I do believe that our South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, & Parks has an overall philosophy that says filling a tag shouldn't be made easier. While I support this view, I do have two points of contention. Point one -- not permitting the use of scopes on muzzleloaders or crossbows. Point two -- not liberalizing the use of crossbows.

Regarding the first point -- I advocate the use of scopes on muzzleloaders as age diminishes the ability to use open sights effectively. Why increase the wounding of game by hunters with aging eyes? Hunters with open sights and side hammers could still use their weapon of choice. With regard to the second point, banning the use of crossbows, especially by seniors, is prematurely taking seniors out of the field. I'm talking about drawing the bow -- compounds included.

Do senior hunters need an advocate? Certainly some do, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I am a senior.

Tomorrow we're heading for Arizona. Some good friends had an extra week for a condominium time share, and invited us down. We've never been there, and I'm looking forward to some spring training baseball, seeing new country, and hopefully fishing Lake Powell on the way home.

*See you next week.