- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 17, 2008

When the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries decided to declare the feeding of deer illegal, a number of local hunters began to ask questions regarding the kind of feeding the state is prohibiting.

If you follow a few basic rules, your upcoming deer hunting season will not be affected. For starters, the feeding prohibition is in effect statewide now through the first Saturday in January. It addresses deer hunters who dump quantities of apples and corn or place specially formulated mineral licks to draw the animals to a particular area to then be hunted.

Although many deer fans consider deer baiting an unethical practice, few states have bothered to enforce their prohibition on dumping food for the deer. But this year, Virginia and other jurisdictions in these parts are cracking down.

Questions, however, also arose concerning the planting of special crops that can attract deer. Virginia says the “no feeding” regulation does not restrict the planting of corn, soybeans and special wildlife food plots, which, as far as I’m concerned, has a similar effect as dumping grains or fruits but is not considered baiting.

VDGIF Deer Project coordinators Matt Knox and Nelson Lafon recently said that in the past 20 years the practice of feeding deer has grown a great deal across the eastern United States and it is being done by deer hunters and the non-hunting public alike.

“The most common reason for feeding deer is to improve their nutrition and to supplement the habitat’s ability to support more deer - in other words to increase the carrying capacity for deer,” Knox said.

“People feed deer because they believe it will keep them from starving,” he added, “but this is not a legitimate reason to feed deer in Virginia. In Virginia, deer die-offs due to winter starvation have been almost nonexistent.

Lafon said, “We do not need more deer in Virginia. In fact, we need fewer deer in many parts of the state.”

Virginia hunt comments sought - Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries wildlife biologists will hold a series of meetings open to the public to review and amend hunting and trapping regulations for the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 seasons. Comments are encouraged.

The closest meeting for Northern Virginians will be held Thursday at 6 p.m., in Fredericksburg at the Gander Mountain Store meeting room, 3708 Plank Road. (Directions: From I-95, take Exit 130 and go west on Route 3 toward Culpeper. Proceed one mile to Gander Mountain Store on left.) For more information on the Hunting and Trapping Regulation Review Process, go to www.HuntFishVA.com and click on “Board Meetings and Other Public Meetings.”

Looking for a canoe? - The Front Royal Canoe Company along the Shenandoah River had a sale of its rental canoes and kayaks last weekend, but there could be some that are still available. If you’re looking for such a light watercraft, check out frcanoe@lynx.com or call 800/270-8808.

Help needed to aid habitat - Ted Ames, the chairman for a special Oct. 11-12 fishing tournament, says help is needed for the Virginia Eastern Shore’s Habitat for Humanity. To provide needed funds, a special Habitat Fishing Tournament will be held. “Avid anglers are needed to benefit the work of Habitat for Humanity,” Ames said.

There’ll be a required captains meeting on Oct. 10 and fishing Oct. 11-12. Register before Sept. 25 and you can save $10 on the $30 ($60 for all categories) entry fee. Not only that, if you’d rather fish from shore, you can do that, too. First prize for red drum, striped bass, speckled trout and flounder is $1,000 each. Second and third prizes are $500 and $250. There also are prizes for the biggest croaker and spot as long as the fish are caught in the coastal waters of Virginia. Interested? Go to hookedonhabitat.com.

cLook for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com. Also check out Gene Mueller’s Inside Outside blog at www.washingtontimes.com/sports.

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