Deer Hunting Michigan With Bait.
by Bruce Thibodeau

Many hunters in Michigan hunted for years by simply going into the woods and
sitting down or walking. Others used the tactics we now refer to as scouting and
hunted scrapes, and ruts. While other hunters preferred to get groups of friends
and family and they would walk as a collective group through areas on deer
drives. Utilizing people on stands placed at likely areas the deer would use to
escape the hunters participating in the drive.

Over the years, some of the family moved away or passed on. The tradition of
deer hunting in Michigan began to change. There were less people at deer camp
to actively do a drive. Many of the people who still hunted found their success in
the deer woods dwindle. They suspected there were less deer, and many other
issues. Someone eventually returned to the idea of baiting. Baiting was not a
new tool, it had been practiced by the native Indians and we suspect even
Neanderthals. It was actively practiced during the great depression and used as a
very effective tool by market hunters.

Baiting took hold as it increased peoples chances of not just seeing but
successfully killing a deer. When I was younger in the 1970’s, my family had a few hunters left amongst its ranks. Some of whom began the practice of baiting.
Others absolutely refused to take part in the baiting of animals. What soon
happened was that the hunters who were using bait, were more successful. This
brought more hunters to the side of baiting, and drove a wedge through the
hunting community. The people who did bait verses the people who didn’t bait.

Both sides hold just reasons, so it was simply accepted as an ethics issue. So
longs as it was legal most viewed it as a personal choice. The people who did bait though soon had to compete with other people who baited, and the people who did not.





The bait piles began to reflect a trend of bigger is better. After all if you
can put a pile of food out that will feed 300 deer. You should have a better
chance of seeing deer than a person who only has a pile that could feed one
deer. The pre season trips to the north went from a few bags of beats and carrots and corn, to pick up beds. To in some cases dump trucks.

When the Michigan DNR recently began to take steps to cut this trend. Due to the finding of TB and other reasons. Many hunters were left to learn a new method of hunting. The years of huge bait piles had lasted so long that an entire generation grew up hunting by no other means than to find a likely place to dump food and sit within shooting distance of it.

That brings us to today. The law in recent seasons for baiting in Michigan has
been NO BAITING to begin until October 1st. No more than 2 gallons of bait on
the ground at a spot at any given time. It must also be spread out over a 10 foot
diameter. For people who hunt where they live it is not a problem yet for others it is a serious issue. Worst part is it is yet another law on the books that is only
being enforced in situations of major violations.

What I am about to do is to tell you how given the amount of bait that is currently legal you can increase your chances of successfully getting a deer.

Even given the competition of others using bait in your area. I know this works as I have used it for the past several years and had very good success with it.

The good thing is if you live in the area you hunt or within a short distance you
can do this very simply. If not you may need to get to know some locals in the
area you hunt. The items you need is nothing more than the bait you use, a sea
bag (available at most military surplus stores.) or a large duffle bag. You will
divide your bait into bags that is approximately the 2 gallon limit. I usually place a couple carrots, a couple apples, some cut up sugar beats, and a gallon or a half
gallon of shelled corn in each bag. I set up 1 bag for each of the spots I place
bait at.




Starting November 1st or so if you only gun hunt, or October 1st if you bow hunt.
You will begin to condition the deer. You don’t need the scent proof gloves and
clothing. You will not be sneaking in on a recon mission for the special forces in
full camouflage. You will simply be taking a walk to your spot.

Every day at about the same time. You will go to the area you hunt and whistle or whatever you want to do to make enough nose to alert the animals you are
approaching. When you get there, open and dump out one bag of bait on the
ground. Spread it out to be the legal area of 10 foot. Take the bag and place in in your pocket and walk back out. Do this at each possible area you may hunt at.

What will happen is that the deer and other animals will quickly find the food.
They will be in heaven as they grab and gobble up the small amount of food you
left them. In less than three days usually the deer realize that they are missing
out on the buffet. They begin to take closer notice of what is happening. Thus
they become aware of when you enter the woods and about what time you leave
the food. You simply keep to your routine. It is important NOT to miss a single day
two weeks prior to your intention to hunt over the bait.

The day arrives to hunt. You simply take in a bag of bait, and I use scent, apple,
and carrot. I go in early I also go in quietly this morning. For me it is November
15th and there will soon be enough disturbance I try not to make more. I also go
in an hour early or sometimes an hour and a half. When I am done putting bait
out. I go to the task of placing two or three scent soaked cloths in the area
around the bait, between the bait and myself.

I then take my seat and sit perfectly still and quiet. And wait. It does not take long for the smell of the food to bring the deer in. See they have learnt if they want to get the goodies they need to be there first. They will come in to the bait to get it before the rest of the animals do. The time you enter though you will need to determine by the number of deer you estimate to be using the bait. Too many deer and they could swoop in and clean you out of bait in less time than you will have to wait for shooting light.




I have for the past few years I watched as the minute the people begin to enter
the forest and make noise as the head off to their own blinds and stands. Within
a short time I have deer come into my bait. I simply let them do their thing. When shooting light arrives I look to see what is available. This for the past few years is how I have filled my doe tag. I was fortunate enough last season to have my doe tag filled within 10 minutes of season. I then sat over the same area and took an 8 point just after lunch.

This is what I have come up with to stay legal and still be able to use bait. Last
season was an unusual season. Most seasons I take my doe, and then spend the
rest of the time working for my buck. I hunt the entire season , and often take
hikes farther back into the forest. On those hikes I often find big illegal bait piles
and often see other people in the area of them. The topic of discussion is usually
the same. “ Seeing anything?” I usually tell them if I have or haven’t. Then when
they tell me they have not seen a deer all season or some such. For the past few
seasons since starting this method I have been able to tell them I got one
opening morning and am just out to enjoy myself.

Good luck in the upcoming season, and if you are having a hard time what have
you got to lose? Try this method it may or may not work for you. I would love to
hear if it works for others. If in season you see a person with long hair in shadow
grass making his way through the forest raise a hand and wave, or call me over
and say hi.