Should Deer Urine Be Banned?

Brow Tines and Backstrap

Should Deer Urine Be Banned?

Posted 2015-05-13T13:31:00Z

Vermont Latest State To Eliminate Popular Deer Hunting Tool

I can always tell when bucks in my neighborhood are starting to show signs of rutty behavior -- or at least when the local hunters are hoping they are.

The racks of deer scents at local stores are as bare as a newborn's backside, and urine-based lures are always the first to go.

I can't even begin to predict the amount of deer pee dumped in the woods each fall, but I've never seriously considered whether doing so could have some sort of negative impact on the deer the urine is supposed to attract.

Apparently, the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board has thought about it plenty and decided earlier this month that the use of urine-based attractants poses too great a risk to whitetails. So they banned its use.

The move is one based on research that indicates urine-based scents and lures may have the potential to transmit Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).

In 2012, Alaska also banned the use of urine-based attractants, and Pennsylvania has mulled over a potential ban as well. But, thus far, the state has not taken action.

CWD is an always-fatal disease that's made headlines in recent years following outbreaks in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Kansas. The most dramatic of those tales comes from Wisconsin, where wildlife officials implemented a respone plan that required severe reductions in deer numbers in the impacted areas, a move that hasn't sat well with hunters and has caused all manner of controversy there.

In a recent conversation with Dr. Grant Woods, he cited CWD as one of the greatest threats facing deer and deer hunting, and he urged action to prevent its spread.

On the surface, banning the use of urine-based scents seems to make sense. But, as is so often the case, there is more to this story than meets the eye.

For starters, the evidence showing that urine-based scents can spread CWD is not regarded as being 100 percent accurate. Furthermore, folks in the scent industry make this compelling argument: Rather than ban the sale of urine-based scents, why not create a set of standards that outlets can follow to ensure the urine they sell is from CWD-free animals.

Terry Rohm of Tink's talked on this very point last spring during the QDMA's first-ever North American Whitetail Summit. Tink's and other scent companies, working with the Archery Trade Association, have been pushing for strict control standards and testing procedures to ensure that all urine-based products are subjected to protocols and standards that are uniform and effective. Banning the use of urine-based scents, he says, makes little sense when no efforts have been made to allow scent producers to show that they can continue to deliver disease-free products.

"We haven't been shown solid evidence that urine-based products pose a risk to whitetails. We haven't been given the opportunity to create standards that ensure they never do," Rohm said. "As a company, Tink's is made up of hunters. We care about deer and hunting as much as anyone. If we ever thought we were harming deer or deer hunting, Tink's would be the first company to stop selling deer urine."

I believe Rohm. While some may say that the scent companies are simply trying to protect their bottom line, I think that's a short-sighted and cynical take. Without a robust whitetail population -- and thus a sizeable population of hunters -- companies like Tink's will suffer. Their long-term bottom line is impacted more greatly by an interest in hunting than by an immediate ban.

Personally, I don't use a lot of urine-based lures. But I have friends who swear by them. And if they hunt in Vermont, that tool has just been removed from their arsenal.

What do you think? Are urine-based lures a threat to whitetail populations? Should their use be banned?

Or is this an issue of regulation with justification?