The Case For Bear Baiting – A Rebuttal by Rob Patuto

The Aug/Sep issue of TBM contained an article titled “Another Nail In The Coffin” in which the author explained how abhorrent and destructive baiting bears is. Personally I have not read the article, but Rob Patuto did and later was asked to write a rebuttal. Rob submitted an 800 word rebuttal which was later reduced to 500 words. Rob did not feel the rebuttal conveyed his feelings after the removal of 300 words so he simply requested the rebuttal not be printed. He did post the full rebuttal on Facebook and after reading it I asked Rob if he would mind if I shared it here. What follows below is the full article as written by Rob Patuto:

The generally predictable wind swung wildly as the thunderheads built overhead. A small chocolate-colored bear, less cautious than the older bears, worked the bait nervously. Most certainly his anxiousness was due to the magnum-sized blackie that had been guarding the site. It was late June and the bear rut was in full swing. A big boar was covering a chocolate sow days before at this site and I had hoped to meet up with him. This boar was no stranger to me. For five years, with game camera photos and personal observations, I was able to watch him mature into a true giant by Northern Idaho standards. My current problem was the fickle winds, they would surely give me away as these mature bears are wary as any whitetail. So, I chose to climb out of the stand and abandon my last sit for the 2020 spring bear baited hunt.
An 80-mile round trip in the truck and 14-mile round trip via a four-wheeler to get to my remote bait sites roughly three times a week over the last three weeks is no small task. The 30 bags of 3-Way horse feed I huffed through the Northern Idaho jungle over those three weeks weigh 60 pounds apiece. Cumbersome bait barrels and tree stands are hauled in for the hunt and out again immediately after the season closes. No trace of my presence is left. The effort is as much time consuming as it is expensive—with no guarantee of putting my tag on a bear. The only slam dunk over the course of my bear season is quality time with my 13-year-old son.
As with any activity we partake in, specifically speaking to our collective outdoor passion, there are people and activities that do not live up to our personal standards. Even when following rules set by the state and federal government, corners are cut, rules and laws are pushed to the limits—it is human nature. Personally, I think the use of extremely primitive equipment and its low energy is borderline unethical, but that is someone else’s choice and they are entitled to it as long as it falls within the parameters set by the state game agencies. However, you cannot legislate ethics and we should be extremely cautious when applying your emotions into an argument, especially when it pertains to game management.
That’s the thing—although a particular activity might not check your personal ethics box, stop and look at the broader picture. Game managers are continually being hamstrung by ballot box biology now more than ever, and none more so than in the predator arena. Whether you realize it or not, Western game managers are fighting a losing battle and have been for the last few decades. When misinformation, lies, and propaganda push voters to close cougar seasons, bear seasons, and wolf seasons all over the West, stop and think of your role in the big picture. Are you injecting emotion over facts? While one person may not desire to hunt bears over bait, just as I do not desire to hunt bears with hounds, it doesn’t mean that it is not an important management tool for our game departments. In recent history, Alaska has opened some areas to baiting for brown bears, ostensibly to increase moose calf recruitment. That is called game management. Here in Idaho where they are extending bear seasons, offering second tags, lowering tag prices, and not requiring the meat to be utilized (which sportsmen have pushed back on). This is all in an attempt to increase elk calf survival rate. If biologists are unable to manage predators how can they manage the prey base?

Is baiting my first choice? No, not at all. I would much rather spot and stalk in areas of Central Idaho but up in the Northern part of the state the notoriously thick vegetation makes spot and stalk all but impossible. Hence the popularity of hound hunting here as well. But as is the case in many places in Alaska, dense vegetation makes baiting a viable option for game managers and a regional pastime that has been enjoyed by many for decades. Make no mistake, I am not a big tent guy, I believe we have way too many unsavory characters representing us and I am all for calling them out. However, in the end, let managers manage and choose to educate rather than legislate.
A side note…. There is currently a lawsuit filed by The Western Environmental Law Center on behalf of several environmental groups attempting to ban baiting in National Forests in Idaho and Wyoming. Undoubtedly, they will intertwine the Endangered Species Act and inject propaganda as we have witnessed in California, Oregon, Colorado, and other states which have lost the ability to effectively manage predators.

Rob Patuto is host of The Stickbow Chronicles Podcast

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