Food plots will bring deer to a property but do not put deer in front of a stand. To stop deer in a specific location you need help and for many hunters, that is a salt lick. But did you know their use may be illegal?
In many states, the use of salt licks is illegal. Others allow a salt lick before the season for management purposes but prohibit their use during the hunting season.
Although what is allowed varies by state and sometimes by management area, let’s take a minute to look at some of the different theories involving the use of salt licks.
Why in Some States Salt Licks Are LEgal
Deer not only like salt; they need it. Salt contains more than just sodium. It also contains traces of other minerals, including chloride and potassium.
As with humans, salt is vital to a deer’s good health. It aids in nerve and muscle functions, regulates boy fluids, and improves antler development.
States that allow the placement of deer licks often consider it a deer management tool rather than bait. If hunting in one of these states, the use of a salt lick would be legal.
Why In Some States Salt Licks Are Illegal
Other states recognize the benefits of salt licks but also consider it unfair. These states often prohibit the use of bait due to the belief it interferes with the fair chase.
If hunting in one of these states, you may be able to place salt licks before the season as a management tool but would need to remove them prior to hunting the area.
Dangers of CWD
Many state regulations prohibiting salt licks have nothing to do with fair chase or whether it is baiting. The concern is the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease, or CWD, in these states.
CWD can devastate a herd and spreads quickly when deer are congregated. In places where baiting was legal and considered a routine part of deer hunting, salt licks are now prohibited to slow the spread of CWD.
If you are hunting in a state with a high presence of CWD, salt licks may be prohibited at any time of the year. It does not matter if you plan to hunt the area or want to help the deer population.
What do the states say?
Although we cannot tell you every state’s regulation regarding salt licks, we can tell you about some of the biggest deer hunting states.
According to a 2018 report from Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA), the following states lead the nation in whitetail deer hunters: Texas, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan. Let’s look at what each has to say.
Texas regulations state it is illegal to “bait wildlife on public hunting lands, except when performed in conjunction with the use of traps or snares for taking fur-bearing and predatory animals, or as otherwise authorized by the department for a specific unit, activity, and period.”
Baiting is defined as “the placement of minerals, vegetative materials or other food substances used as an attractant for wildlife.”
Because the baiting regulation only applies to public hunting lands, you can place attractants, including salt licks, on private land.
The Keystone State prohibits hunting over bait in all but a few of the Southeastern counties. Even then, it can only be with a permit.
Elsewhere it is unlawful to “hunt in or around any area where artificial or natural bait, food, hay, grain, fruits, nuts, salt, chemical, or minerals, including their residues, are used or have been used within the last 30 day….”
Although you can place the bait, including salt licks, you can not hunt over it. You must remove all bait from the area at least 30 days before hunting.
Wisconsin does allow baiting for deer but only in certain counties. Approximately half of the counties prohibit baiting, so it is essential to know precisely where you will be placing the bait. There is also a limit of 2 gallons of bait per 40-acre plot.
Although bait is legal, you can put it out until 24 hours prior to the year’s first deer season. The first deer season is the early archery deer season in most counties.
The land of 10,000 lakes is not salt friendly. To slow the spread of CWD, Minnesota has extensive bans on deer feeding and attractants. Although salt licks are not feeding, they fall within the substances banned as attractants.
As of December 31, 2021, 13 counties prohibited feeding deer, and 31 banned both feeding of deer and the use of attractants.
In these counties, the placement of feed or attractants is illegal even for other species such as songbirds or small mammals if deer can access it.
Michigan prohibits baiting and feeding in the Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula core CWD surveillance area. In other parts of the state, baiting is still legal but subject to limitations.
These limitations include a maximum of 2 gallons of bait, a minimum coverage area of 10-foot by 10-foot area, and you must spread bait directly on the ground.
Because the state’s definition specifically includes “minerals (including salt and salt blocks), the use of individual salt licks may be illegal due to the minimum dispersal area.
Please check with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources before doing so.
As you can see, the rules governing salt licks extend far beyond “fair chase.” With the growing threat of CWD, more states will likely prohibit or limit the use of such attractants in the coming years.
It is always good to contact the local Fish & Wildlife agency before placing or hunting over bait, including salt licks.