SPARTA, Mich. - Monday was a gloomy opening day for Michigan bow hunters and the farmers who previously sourced their bait supply.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources moved to ban deer baiting in an effort to stop the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease, which they say has killed dozens of deer over the years. The ban goes into effect statewide beginning in January of 2019. However, the ban went into effect back in August for hunters in the core area: Calhoun, Clinton, Eaton, Gratiot, Hillsdale, Ingham, Ionia, Isabella, Jackson, Kent, Mecosta, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo, Ottawa and Shiawassee counties.
Not all hunters relied on baiting for their success, but the ones who did accounted for a decent amount of business for farms like Under the Pines.
"It's really sad because you're going to see a lot more waste," said Jenni Klein, the farm owner's daughter-in-law.
What's possibly more unfortunate is that the farm only found out about the ban a month ago, after seeing it on the news. Klein said they were surprised not to hear it from the DNR.
"I know there are a lot of us to get to, but it would have been nice to know," Klein said.
Klein said they are looking for places to give their leftover 'secondary' apples, in hopes of preventing all the waste. She said they also used to sell pumpkins by the truck load for $20 to be used as deer bait.
"Usually we would have thousands more pumpkins out there, but to even bring them up from the field would be utterly pointless," she explained. "Because they are not gonna be sold...it's just going to sit in the fields now and get tilled in at the end of the year."
Klein said they are happy to help put an end to CWD in the deer population, but, "it hurts" she said. Other local farms, less involved in providing bait, said they did not notice a change in sales.
Garry Hosmer, the owner of Sparta Sport Shop, said he is not a baiter himself, but knows plenty of his customers were. He said he does not agree with the steps taken to prevent CWD, but he understands why they were put in place.
"We definitely want our customers to follow the rules, we put a lot of them in the field and we want to continue to do that," Hosmer said.
Hosmer said deer hunters in Michigan are diehard enough not to be deterred by the new regulations, but said he expects it to affect some hunter's kill ratios.
The Michigan DNR did not immediately return a request for comment.
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