Author: Ross Mellinger
The world we live in has become so filled with hate and judgment that it seems that truly nothing is off-limits anymore. The level of butthurt over success in anything is at an all-time high. People as individuals and others as part of platforms will stop at nothing to dissect a winner’s success, and furthermore, find some way to publicly shame or otherwise piss and moan about the level of that particular success versus their own inability to achieve the same themselves. The hunting world is no different. However, I’m going to break it down as nobody has before, so let’s dive right into it.
The greatest debate I see in the world of whitetail hunting is that of “Baiting.” I often times hunt using feed, but I certainly have no issue with those that don’t either. I also have my theories as to why there is so much hate towards those that use feed as a tool to hunt. Here is where this is likely to upset a lot of non-feeding hunters, but if those of you are man enough to fuss and gripe about it behind a keyboard or smartphone, then you can be man enough to listen to an intelligent counter-argument. Aside from the logical and obvious legal arguments in states where it is, my theories fall into three main categories….hear me out. If you complain about “Baiting” and are not legitimately a purist or naturalist of the sport, then you likely fall into AT LEAST one of the three following categories: 1) You’re just flat-out lazy. There, I said it!!! Just rip that band-aid right off!!! 2) You’re too cheap to spend the money, but have no problem pissing away your money on life’s other frivolous things such as alcohol, tobacco, video games, tattoos, fancy TVs, high-dollar clothing, restaurants, concerts, or anything else of life’s “Luxuries.” 3) You lack true dedication to a program such as feeding or “Baiting” to give it the attention to detail and devotion that it requires to be effective. Now many of you non-believers have just finished that last sentence and become immediately defensive or angry. Again, bear with me here, and let’s dive into this with a bit more detailed microscope.
I’m going to lay out my feeding/baiting regimen before we go any further, just so you have a solid understanding of where I come from in my argument. I’m not here to say that my approach is any better than anyone else’s, but before you begin to digest the magnitude of this, I know I am an extremist on the topic. Not everyone will experience the level of funding or dedication as me. I understand that. I target specifically mature animals that are known on a particular farm or region and this allows me to study and take inventory all year round. Having said that, my wife and I have taken a combined 29 Pope & Young whitetails in the last 10 years alone, and continue to do it primarily in a state that isn’t really recognized for that level of consistency. We aren’t special and we aren’t even what I consider “Gold standard” whitetail hunters, but we certainly have shared some success with what we do. I feed between 18-25 tons of feed per year and have done so for the majority of my adult life. I am 46 years old now. You read that correctly….18-25 TONS!!!! I also drop annually an additional 1500-2000 pounds of minerals. I also till and seed between 4-8 acres of food plots, but I also don’t ever hunt them anymore either. They are done solely for sanctuary reasons. Many of you will read that in disbelief. Yep, I DO NOT hunt my food plots. It’s a lot of work knowing I will NEVER hunt them each year. All this requires roughly 25 trail cameras to monitor this activity. It is a YEAR ROUND program, not just for a couple of weeks in the Fall of the year. I burn nearly all of my vacation from work dedicated to this as well as the actual hunting part of things. I sacrifice nearly every weekend as well to ensure it all gets done. I study maps weekly on identifying new areas and the potential access to minimize human intrusion. I access each spot ONLY between the hours of 10 am and 2 pm…EXCLUSIVELY….even in the Summer heat! After driving the side x side a reasonable distance, I physically carry the 100-pound feed bags to each site the last 50-100 yards of each setup – oftentimes several bags at once (whatever I feel will adequately last a 7-day period there, based on known activity). If it requires 500 pounds at one site, then that’s 500 pounds I physically put on my shoulders and carry in, bag after bag after bag….only after I previously loaded it by hand the first time into the side x side. I may do this for 6-10 different sites at a time on 3-5 different farms. Most of us can adequately do the math there to know that this is no easy task…and because of my level of commitment to it, it isn’t cheap either. A reasonable man can also see that it isn’t a hobby or fad, but rather a dedication to a lifestyle. In the end, I still have to know where to run my sites and how to access them while playing the wind and how to hang my stands in the right spot. It also allows me to know which deer in the area are mature and which are not and furthermore take inventory of new deer that move into or out of the areas. This program specifically is how I can firmly and legitimately make my claims to the aforementioned three main theories, as most of you will see just how involved my program is. Now, sit tight…I’m just getting started.
I hear the cries all the time, “That’s not REAL hunting!” That couldn’t be further from the truth, folks! Some of the world’s greatest apex predators use the same ambush-style method at known feeding areas as the preferred way to hunt. Do you know why they do??? BECAUSE IT WORKS!!! Think I’m wrong? Let’s examine how a coyote searches for prey. Bobcats? Yep…them too. Mountain lions? Grizzlies? Gators? You betcha! The ambush/feeding method has been around since the beginning of time. Let’s look at why baiting is no different than any other tool in a hunter’s bag of tricks. I use the term “tool” because that is EXACTLY what it is, and here is why I am correct:
Do you hunt from a treestand? It’s a tool, yet we don’t hear anyone fussing about that now, do we? Why do we hunt from a treestand??? Because it gives us an advantage over our prey. It gives us the upper hand as the predator.
Do you use a rifle with a scope? It too is a tool meant exclusively to give us an advantage…yet nobody cries over that as well. It’s a tool meant solely to give us the upper hand over our targeted animal.
Oh….and you use trail cameras? I have one word for you…..TOOL!
How about that side x side or 4-wheeler that’s sitting in your garage? Do you really expect me to believe that’s for recreation or yard work purposes only or for your kids or grandkids to ride around on the lawn? Listen carefully here when I say this…..TOOL!!!!
In my opinion, the baiting tool is an even more fair and more sincere approach than all the previously mentioned technologies because it requires WORK in addition to funding. I think we can all agree that work ethic is something this generation oftentimes lacks on many levels. This argument is no different.
I’ve seen time and time again that some of the world’s most successful hunters, regardless of their preferred style or method, were successful in life looooooong before we dissected and examined their way of hunting. Do you know why that’s the case? It’s all because of that same level of commitment, work, and financial dedication to be great at their craft. They worked a little harder…often times ALOT harder. They spent more money and time on that craft or job than their competitors did. In a nutshell, THEY JUST WANTED IT MORE!!! It’s that same level of success in life that fuels the hate fire in non-hunting-related activities, just as it doesn’t in this baiting topic. This world has become just a bunch of jealous haters that can’t stand the success of others.
When you look at it in its entirety, everyone has a platform and foundation for their own argument on the topic. However, in the end, it’s all about preference and dedication, whether it be financial or physical dedication. Hell, it’s even the PREFERRED method in bear hunting every Spring, yet here we are fussing daily on social media about feeding or baiting whitetail deer. I don’t even try to hide it. I’m proud of the work I put in. I know that with every bloody arrow, much sweat and backache have come long before the smile and success. I earned it. Luck had very little, if any, to do with it.
I can go on and on and on – forever arguing over the topic of tools, ie: scent-blocking clothing, fancy engineered broadheads, ground blinds, mapping apps for cell phones, etc. Let’s also not forget about the engineering marvels of our archery, crossbow, and firearms themselves! Now, ask yourself this….tell me which of those above-listed items brings out the hate and butthurt of social media hunters more than the topic of “Baiting.” Which one of those items or topics also requires the level of work and dedication that of a premier year-round feeding program? Now….having read all this, let’s be honest here…TRULY HONEST. If you are still upset that folks such as me and others bait and you don’t or won’t, which of the three aforementioned categories do YOU fall under???