Published Date Written by Gail OberLACONIA — The Belknap County Attorney and a New Durham man reached an agreement in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division yesterday regarding four violations of deer baiting in Alton.
David S. Thayer, 33 agreed to a violation level offense of placing bait on August 10, 2012 on the property of another without consent of the owner and to baiting deer before the official deer baiting season began on September 1.
In exchange, Melissa Guldbrandsen agreed not to prosecute him for a violation of placing more than two active bait sites on one property and a violation for placing a bait sight on a property without identifying himself and his address as the deer baiter.
All totaled, Thayer, who owns the Coyote Creek Outfitters, LLC in Rochester will pay $248 in fines and fees. He could loose his license to hunt in New Hampshire for up to a year.
Thayer's agreement to accept responsibility for two violations and agree to pay two of the fines comes as the New Hampshire State Legislature considers — for the third time since 2007 — a bill that would ban deer baiting in the state.
House Bill 258-FN is scheduled for a hearing Thursday at 10:30 a.m. in Room 305-307 in the Legislative Office Building in Concord.
Right now, deer baiting is allowed in New Hampshire but regulated by the Department of Fish and Game. Regulations include no deer baiting after April 15 or before September 1 — one of the violations Thayer agreed he violated. Other regulations include a provision that if a hunter is not on his or her own property, permission must be granted by the land owner and a permit must be filed with the land owner, the hunter, the Fish and Game officer whose is on patrol in that area and the Department of Fish and Game.
The copy of the permit must contain a description of the bait site and how it can be located and, unless the deer bait is placed by a guide company, no more than two sites can be on any one property.
A hunter must also identify his or her bait site with a name and an address.
According to Jason Parent, the co-owner of New Hampshire Guide Services and a life-long hunter and professional hunting guide who is against HB-258, there isn't a problem with deer baiting in the state.
He also added that because the surrounding New England states have banned deer baiting, New Hampshire could stand to loose a considerable amount of revenue from people coming from other states.
The fiscal note provided by Rep. David Kidder (R-New London), the primary sponsor of the bill and the Clerk of the House Fish and Game and Marine Resources Committee, says the fiscal costs to the state would be negligible and primarily will be borne by the judiciary. He estimates each case could cost the court system $42.36. The bill notes that there is a possibility that new law could add up to $10,000 or more in court costs.
No economic impact statistics were included in the fiscal note.
Parent's other problem with HB-258 is that the bill's advocates have provided no statistics regarding deer baiting that indicate how many deer are harvested over bait. "They don't ask at the (deer check) stations," he said.
"There were 60,000 licenses issued in New Hampshire last year. How many harvest over bait?" he asked. "Nobody knows," he said answering his own question.
He said he hunted 34 of the 35 days of the 2012 hunting season and he never saw a bait site. "I'm in the woods as much as anybody," he said.
If it was a real problem, contends Parent, the Department of Fish and Game could regulate it further through their own rule making authority but have never done so.
"Yet this bill will go to the Legislature with their support," Parent said, noting that the Fish and Game Commission met in January and voted to support the bill.
He said the Department of Fish and Game just doesn't want to deal with deer baiting. "They don't care that it's not a problem," Parent said.
Kidder says the Fish and Game Department has statistics that show deer baiting is becoming a problem. He said it is shifting the way deer behave and attracting deer from one location to others.
Parent's reply to this is that deer in winter will typically congregate in natural protection zones called "deer yards" and that baiting doesn't really make as much of a difference as topography, the year's acorn crop, and other naturally occurring weather and food supply events.
He also said deer baiting is a lot of work and not a lot of hunters do it — at least in the North Country where he does most of his hunting.
Kidder, also a life-long hunter, said his primary reason for sponsoring the no baiting bill was "fairness."
"Hunting is about the chase," he said. "It's not about putting food out."
"Find a track a follow it. To put food out and sit in a stand is unfair," he continued.
Parent said for him personally it is about the chase. He said he doesn't bait and doesn't use tree stands, but the way he hunts and the way others choose to hunt should be left to the hunter not to the state Legislature.