By Eric Pehowic
The Daily Item
DANVILLE — Three archery hunters used bait to attract deer on a West Hemlock Township property, according to citations filed Thursday in the office of Montour County District Judge Marvin Shrawder.
Ten percent to 15 percent of hunting violations are related to baiting wildlife, said Tim Conway, conservation administration supervisor for the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Northeast Region.
“We run into it quite frequently, unfortunately,” Conway said. “They think putting bait out adjacent to tree stands, using that to enhance their opportunity, they feel they have to do that for whatever reason. A lot of states do promote it and have legalized baiting.”
Conway said there are pros and cons to both sides of the issue, but in Pennsylvania, it’s a hunter ethics issue about breaking the rules of the chase.
“We already have so many advantages,” he said.
Wildlife conservation officer Ricky A. Dietrich filed charges against Curtis Neal Jones, 26, of 123 Jacob St., Montandon, and Frank Sterling Baylor, 76, of 380 Columbia Hill Road, Danville, for hunting close to a bait area that included a mineral block on a property off Kashner Road. The charges said Jones was 31 to 32 yards from the bait on Oct. 4. Baylor was 43 yards away, according to the citation, and the bait area was clearly visible through the open woods from his tree stand.
The third hunter, Christopher Michael Rump, 22, of 59 Stamm Road, Milton, was cited four times. The officer said Rump possessed two cans of spray acorn bombs, and he was hunting 76.5 yards from the bait, according to the citations.
“It’s called a bomb because it’s in an aerosol can. You press it to ignite it, more or less, and it releases into the air,” Conway said. “It continually sprays in the air for five or 10 minutes before it shuts off. It coats the area and makes it smell like acorns or apples.”
Conway said the mineral block is usually a block of salt and sometimes has other minerals, like potassium, in it. The blocks are used to attract both deer and bear.
“(Salt occurs) naturally in the wild,” he said. “Sometimes, you’ll come across a mud hole that had a lot of activity in it. They were in there eating the mud because it had a high concentration of sodium and potassium.”
He said any item that is an attractant or that even imitates a food source, when used for hunting purposes, is illegal. However, it is not illegal to sell these items, which are on the shelves of the same outdoors shops that outfit Pennsylvania hunters.
Baiting happens most often during archery and bear season, but fortunately, “Most hunters do it the right way,” Conway said.
Commission officers catch cheating hunters in a number of ways. They patrol hunting areas during the season and, many times, receive tips from property owners and other hunters.
“A lot of times, officers are checking areas where hunters are known to utilize bait,” Conway said. “A lot of them come in on tips. Hunters come across an area that’s baited. They feel it’s affecting their hunting ability” and call the commission.
Conway said baiting instances are not trending up or down but could not provide statistics. He said the commission’s new records system will allow officers to track violations in the future.
Another hunter, Travis Lee Biddinger, 22, of 415 Ave. F, Riverside, was charged with two counts of harvesting deer and not tagging and reporting them within 10 days. He also received a written warning for not carrying his license with him. He was cited Oct. 1 on the same property and will pay $104 in fines and costs, officers said.
Citations for the other hunters only listed court costs of $23.50.
Statewide, archery season started Sept. 29 and continues through Nov. 12. A second season begins Dec. 26 and ends Jan. 12.