Alabama Baiting Proposal

Chris Maroldy

Alabama’s wildlife department has a new idea. Word of caution: hang on to your wallet.

I haven’t been able to find anything to say that this has been squashed, so I’ll assume it’s still alive. I also couldn’t easily find when Ala­bama’s regs change over to 2017-2018, but considering that they still have 2016-2017 regs up on the government website as of this writing, I’d say that it’s either July 1 like a lot of states, or it’s not. How’s that for certainty?

(Actually, it’s not uncommon for game and fish departments to be a few days behind on updating their websites when a new regulation year begins. Someone should look into that.)

So what’s the big deal? Answer: There’s a bill circulating—or at least there was—that would require hunters in Alabama who want to bait deer or hogs to pay $15 toward a special permit. One dollar of each sale would go to a third-party vendor for processing the permit (sweet gig) and the rest would go to G&F. This means the wildlife office could raise be­tween 1.2 and 1.5 million dollars from baiters, according to estimates.

This is a master stroke! If it flies in Ala­ba­ma, I guarantee other states will try it. Then next they can create licenses and charge based on what weapon you use and really rake it in.

(Oh, wait. A lot of states already do that, most obviously our neighbor to the north, Vir­ginia.)

I don’t know who is the genius who came up with this idea, but I bet the game wardens are wondering how they’re going to catch any violators without some serious covert operations. How good is a law or regulation if it’s unenforceable in the first place? How are you going to write a ticket on a guy without visiting his bait station and then observe the man hunting over it without his baiting permit?

I realize that a lot of wildlife regs are somewhat dependent on the honor system and voluntary compliance, but this idea strikes me as too far out to sea to be taken seriously. If a man’s apparently been hunting when you stop him out on the blacktop, you at least have some leg to stand on to charge him with something if he doesn’t have his hunting license. (Don’t get me started on that, though…)

On the other hand, I have absolutely no idea what type of parallel legal universe lets you charge a man with a hunting license but without a baiting permit, unless you catch him in the act. Based on my experience, a game warden spends only a small portion of his time skulking around in the woods, but I don’t see how very many people are going to be caught and legitimately charged unless that changes.

Also, I wonder if this idea ever crossed the mind of whoever came up with this idea: How about raising the cost of the general hunting license by, oh, I don’t know, say $5 all around? I think it’s a safe guess that the math would indicate you raise even more money that way than this bill would, and G&F pockets what would otherwise go out in third-party administrative fees besides.

Or, if everybody’s baiting in Alabama and my arithmetic is wrong, get some of the money you need by raising fees on permits and licenses across the board. In the face of constant handwringing from wildlife offices that they don’t have enough money, trying to slide one rather blatant and brassy money-grab over on a subgroup like baiters seems the tippy-toe approach. If you’ve got your hat in your hand, ask for what you need and get everyone to pitch in.

Alabama is not California. Trends don’t tend to start there and then infect the rest of the country. I would keep an eye on this though, because the odds are that getting baiters to pay extra as a way of raising funds is an idea that won’t easily go away. Before we see it in North Carolina, we can spend some time imagining what other groups might be ripe for the plucking.

Minnow dunkers, perhaps?