Mississippi Buck Found Dead: CWD Now Documented In 24 States

cwd map 24 statesEvery time I blog about Chronic Wasting Disease, or CWD, people read it, yawn and move on. Last year I hosted and produced an episode of BIG DEER TV on Sportsman Channel entitled “State of the Deer Union,” a significant portion of which dealt with the science and dangers of CWD. People watched it and the ratings were good, but I got only a handful of emails on the CWD topic.

TIME TO WAKE UP HUNTERS! CWD continues to spread with POTENTIALLY DEVASTATING long-term impacts on America’s deer herds and the future of hunting.

The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP) reports the first documented case of Chronic Wasting Disease in the state. The 4½-year free-ranging buck was found dead in Issaquena County and collected by MDWFP in late January.

CWD, which was first documented in mule deer in Colorado in 1967, has now been confirmed in 24 states, 3 Canadian provinces and 2 foreign countries.  CWD is found only in hoofed animals such as deer, elk, and moose. The disease affects an animal’s nervous system. Infected deer lose weight, wander aimlessly, salivate and eventually die. It is always fatal.

While many people continue to scoff and blow off CWD, the impacts are now starting to be felt in the way we hunt. Last fall, during the 2017 season, in several different incidents, hunters were charged with illegally transporting deer shot in CWD states across state lines. You can’t just throw a gutted buck in the back of your truck and carry it home across a state line anymore. Most every state in the Nation has now implemented CWD deer transport laws and you MUST KNOW THEM AND ABIDE.

Even more problematic, CWD is now affecting the very core of why most of us hunt—to bring home the venison. While no cases of CWD in humans have been confirmed, there is fear that could change. In a Canadian study three of five primates contracted the disease after eating meat from CWD-infected animals.

If this doesn’t get your attention I don’t know what will.

Steve Demarais of the Mississippi State University Deer Lab said the thought of CWD changing into something that kills humans isn’t out of the question. “It’s morphed and there’s nothing to say it won’t morph into something that humans are more susceptible to.”

In other CWD news: 2 more penned deer recently tested positive for CWD in Pennsylvania. And 15 deer shot by hunters in far northwestern Virginia during the 2017 season tested positive. This really hits home, as I hunt in a county less than 2 hours away.

Most Deer Hunters Per Square Mile in U.S.

qdma hunter density

Ran across this QDMA map and found it interesting. Does not surprise me that Pennsylvania and New York are 2 of the top hunter-density states, it’s been that way for decades.

I do question why Michigan is not in the top 12. A decade ago Michigan was at or near the top in number of licensed hunters in the U.S. Michigan hunters killed more than 340,000 deer in 2016-17, second only to Texas, so there is still a lot of deer hunting going on up there.

I mention that the statistics used to build this map came from a 2011 Fish and Wildlife Service study. But since hunter numbers are down across the board and across the states recent years, I believe the list is still mostly accurate.

The more hunters per square mile, the more pressure on the bucks, of course. To that end, here’s a good passage from the story that accompanies the map:

How do you combat high hunter density? In most areas there is no easy trick to reducing the number of hunters on a large scale, and in most cases, you don’t want to. Every hunter is important to our wildlife management system and to the future of hunting. Rather than reducing hunter numbers, it is generally better to reduce their impacts in areas of high hunter density. Spreading hunters across a property, limiting ATV use, and paying close attention to wind direction can all enhance hunting opportunities without reducing the number of hunters.

One more thing. See why I enjoy hunting out West so much, in Montana, Wyoming, Oklahoma, etc.? Plenty of room for both deer and hunters to roam out there.

Texas Hunter Loses Feet , Fingers To Flu

tx hunter fluI’ve been reading about and monitoring this brutal flu season (and washing my hands more than ever), which experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say will go down as the worst in decades.

There are many heartbreaking and scary stories, but this one from Fox News really hit home: A hunting enthusiast who started out with the flu ended up with both of his feet and nine fingers amputated.

On January 4, doctors told Brian Herndon of Fort Worth, Texas, he had pneumonia. A day later they told the family that Brian’s pneumonia had combined with this year’s flu virus and he was in septic shock. Physicians couldn’t detect a pulse in either of Brian’s feet; a couple of weeks later, both of his feet and nine fingers were removed.

“This flu is serious business,” Brian’s wife Jaye told the Fort-Worth Star-Telegram. ”People need to pay attention to it… Not everyone’s body deals with the flu like maybe yours does.”

Brian is facing a long recovery. “We’ll need some prosthetic fingers to aid with shooting,” Jaye said. “But eventually those will all be things that he is able to enjoy again. He’s a man of faith, and we’re all just trusting God to carry him through and bring us to that new normal.”

The Herndon family has started a GoFundMe page to help pay for Brian’s prosthetic feet and fingers.

Did you get your flu shot this year? If not medical experts say it’s not too late.

Alabama Snow Freaks Out Deer

IMG_2959[1]A couple of weeks ago we had a TV crew down near Selma, Alabama. The rut typically kicks off around January 15 here, and after my first 2 sits I knew we’d hit things just right.

I saw young bucks scent-trailing and chasing, and the first evening a pretty good buck fight broke out in the food plot I watched. I had 3 more days to hunt, and figured it was just a matter of time until I saw a shooter. I was not going to be picky; people had been hunting these areas and these stands for weeks, making these already wild deer spookier and more nocturnal yet. If I saw a 3.5- or 4.5-year-old buck with a 120-plus rack, I’d gladly take him.

The next morning deer rutted harder yet. I didn’t see much from my ladder, but my friend and Sportsman Channel colleague Graig Hale spotted a high-racked buck chasing a doe through the woods. The white antlers looked heavy, so Graig dropped him with a quick shot from his .270 Remington Model 783.

Great decision: the 4.5-year-old 8-point buck scored 136 with character, a real trophy for hard-hunted ground in Alabama.

All good, but dark clouds were moving in and the temperature was dropping fast as I headed to my stand that evening. Around 2:00 o’clock, sleeted started and then turned to light snow.

Normally I hope for cold and snow in the rut, but not in Alabama. “This weather will freak these deer out,” I told my cameraman Mike.

The snow picked up and the temperature dropped into the 20s at dusk. We didn’t see a single deer. It snowed 3 inches overnight, and was 10 degrees the next morning. We saw nothing, even the squirrels refused to move. I hunted 2½ more days and saw a total of 4 deer, and no bucks even close to shooting.

Back home, to confirm my suspicions that snow and cold freak out Southern deer, I emailed Chuck Sykes, Director Alabama Wildlife and Fisheries. He wrote back:

Mike: You’ve got to think like an Alabama deer not a Midwestern deer. Most of our deer have never seen snow. They may be 3 or 4 years old before they do. So, it does freak them out. It’s been my experience over the years down here, sleep in when it snows or a hard cold front comes in. They hunker down in the closest thicket and pout until it warms up a bit and the snow starts to melt. It usually takes them 2 or 3 days to get adjusted. 

I’ll remember that next time I hunt the Deep South, and you should too if you live down there.

But all was not lost. Graig shooting his great buck the morning before the snow hit saved the day and helped to make another fine episode of BIG DEER TV that will appear on Sportsman later this year.

IMG_2956[1]

 

Shed Hunting: Iowa Deadhead 205”!

ia deadhead 205

As I said last week, people out shed hunting in 2018 are already finding an inordinate number of deadheads with big racks, but this one takes the cake and will be the biggest typical found this year, no doubt:

@Tylerknott4 posted on Twitter: Never know what you will find in the woods of Iowa! Found this giant shed hunting. Gross scored 205