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Food plots on the rise amid DNR's deer baiting ban

The DNR banned deer baiting in the Lower Peninsula and areas in the Upper Peninsula as numbers in chronic wasting disease rise.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Hundreds of hunters and industry experts made their way to Grand Rapids over the weekend for the Huntin' Time expo at the DeltaPlex Arena. However, many hunters are feeling set back amid the Michigan DNR's decision to ban deer baiting in most of the state.

"Based on the presence of CWD (Chronic Wasting Disease) in our deer herd and in several counties within the state, they made a decision to ban baiting while they do a study on the deer herd and the impact to our deer herd," said Nick Percy, owner of Killer Food Plots.

The ban was initially instituted by the Michigan Natural Resources Commission in 2018. The state's DNR says baiting and feeding concentrates animals beyond their normal movement patterns, increasing the spread of CWD and bovine tuberculosis.

Baiting deer and elk is prohibited throughout the entire Lower Peninsula and parts of the Upper Peninsula. However, food plots are a legal alternative for hunters instead of deer baiting. 

"Last year we tried our first food plot up in Cadillac, and we’re not very experienced with it. So, the idea is to give the deer a place to come into your property and eat off the ground to bring the deer onto your property so you don't have to go get them," said Jim Lewis, a West Michigan hunter.

Food plots are classified as by the Michigan DNR as "naturally occurring foods, standing agricultural crops, or food placed as a result of using normal agricultural practices." The alternative is not considered to be bait or feed under the DNR's requirements. However, building any food plot or artificial garden to attract wildlife on public land is prohibited.

Percy has operated Killer Food Plots for 30 years. Originally an engineer, he got into the hunting industry after his friends asked him to make them a series of food plots when he was 19 years old.

"I used my engineering background to troubleshoot and figure it out, became successful in growing food plots, then I started to raise deer in high fence so that I could learn more about deer," Percy said.

Today Percy sells a variety of pellets, seeds and soil protector, among other items. He also volunteers to work alongside the DNR to educate hunters on food plotting.

RELATED: State bans deer baiting to curb chronic wasting disease

"I’m able to educate and help people, and it’s a win win for both them and for me. They’re (DNR) able to do what they do and I’m able to help people have greater success," he said.

While Percy doesn't support the bait ban, he is finding business success through hunters looking for alternatives, saying revenue is up. He said in the midst of the ban's controversy, he hopes hunters can continue in the Michigan sport and support one another.

RELATED: Whitmer vetoes bill that would have ended deer baiting ban

"We’re all on the same team. We have to come together and unite to be able to do the right thing to be able to take care of our deer herd."


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