2019 EHD Report: Confirmed Deer Deaths In At Least 5 States

Illinois ehd

It’s been dry and hot for weeks in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic, prime conditions for Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) to rear its ugly head and kill whitetails.

The first state to confirm EHD in August 2019 was Indiana, where deer deaths have been reported in at least 10 counties in the southern part of the state.

The Iowa DNR initially reported an outbreak of the disease concentrated near Warren County. In a more recent update, authorities report hundreds of deer have died after contracting EHD in the south-central section of the state. As many as 900 deer have died, and there could be more dead deer hidden among farmers’ crops.

The West Virginia DNR confirms EHD has killed deer in small areas of Summers, Monroe and Greenbrier counties.

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife and Murray State University’s Breathitt Veterinary Center confirmed the state’s first 2019 case of hemorrhagic disease in a dead deer from Graves County in Western Kentucky. Officials are investigating how wide-spread the issue is in Kentucky, looking into cases of 22 dead deer in 11 counties.

Finally, this is big news, the Minnesota DNR recently confirmed the first two cases of EHD in wild deer ever.

“All of our neighboring states have been dealing with EHD for years,” said Lou Cornicelli, DNR wildlife research manager. “So it was always a question of when it would show up in Minnesota.”

Good news is that it is already mid-September. The first hard frost, which will likely occur within weeks in Minnesota and within a month in Iowa, kills the midges that bite the deer, effectively ending EHD for the year. In Kentucky, Indiana, West VA and any southern states where EHD might still break out, EDH could kill deer well into late October or even November.

About EHD: Both epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) and the bluetongue virus (BTV) are viral diseases that can infect deer, but EHD is more common in whitetails. Neither EHD nor BTV affects humans.

The symptoms typically show up about 7 days after deer have been infected with the EHD virus: loss of appetite, weakness, loss of fear of humans, circling, and other neurological signs. Deer that have died from EHD may have a swollen tongue, eyelids, neck, or head. The disease is often fatal, but some deer will survive and develop immunity.

EHD is transmitted by biting midges (genus Culicoides) known as “no-see-ums” or gnats. These breed and live in small pools of standing water. Many deer that die from EHD are found in or around water. After the insect population is reduced by cold weather in the fall, the spread of new infections to stop shortly after the first hard freeze in the fall.

Hot, dry weather with little rain, summer-like conditions that extend into the fall, may increase the occurrence and duration of an EHD outbreak. As usual water sources become scarce, more deer use any water that is available. As deer gather around these water sources, more deer in the population may become exposed to infected midges, which spread the disease between deer via bites. 

Here’s something I bet you didn’t know, I didn’t: During hunting season, if you kill or see a deer that has similar grooves in all its hooves, the animal may have survived an EHD infection. The grooves are a result of the deer having had a high fever and is similar to the groove in a fingernail when it grows out after being hit. Such a deer is safe to handle and eat.

Bowhunting: 5 Keys To Shooting An Early-Season Buck

spartan drop tine 2018If you hunt in Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina or any state where the archery season opens in September, click here and for tips and advice on how to punch your tag super early. I teamed with Outdoor Life digital for a 5-point plan that involves understanding late-summer buck behavior, trail-camera strategies, best tree stand spots and more.

Good luck and send me pictures if you shoot a good buck this month or anytime this season!




New CWD Laws For Transporting Deer In 2019 Hunting Season

cwd transport confiscate deer

As I have said many times here on the blog and on TV, the days of shooting a buck, loading it whole into your pickup and driving home across a state line are gone.

Likewise, shooting a buck out West or up in Canada and driving or flying home with a cape with head/skull attached is a thing of the past.

The threat and spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has forever changed how we go about getting our deer out of the woods and back to the house. Before you go hunting this season, it is vitally important that you read this, go to your state’s website and double-check for specific information and then follow deer-transport rules to the letter of the law.

The last thing you want is for conservation officers to confiscate your deer (picture) and hand you a fine!

The following information is from a joint statement from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA), but it applies similarly to all states across the country.

As the 2019 seasons open, the ADCNR and TWRA remind hunters that it is illegal to import whole carcasses and certain body parts of any species of deer into either state (and again, most all states).

The import ban on deer in Alabama and Tennessee is part of a larger effort throughout the country to prevent the spread of CWD, a fatal neurological disease of whitetails and other deer species, including mule deer, elk and moose.

“Working closely with our counterparts in neighboring states is one of the best ways we can prevent the spread of CWD,” said Chris Blankenship, ADCNR Commissioner. “It is vital to the health of our deer herd that out-of-state hunters know and follow the hunting regulations in both the state in which they live and the state in which they plan to hunt.”

Under the import bans, no person may import, transport, or possess a carcass or body part from any species of deer harvested anywhere outside of either state without properly processing it before bringing it home.

As a rule anywhere in North America for the 2019 seasons, proper and legal processing of a deer before transport includes:

1)      Completely deboning meat and carrying it in game bags, a cooler, etc.

2)      Completely cleaning skull plates with attached antlers, so no visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present; you cannot carry a complete skull across state lines, for example if you want to get a European mount

3)      Raw capes are okay for transport, if no visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present

4)      Mounted deer and fully finished taxidermy products and tanned hides are legal

5)      Velvet antlers are illegal to import into Alabama and some other states unless they are part of a finished taxidermy product (a raw velvet buck that you shot, say, this September in Kentucky is not transportable

“Our greatest allies in the fight against CWD are hunters,” said Chuck Yoest, CWD coordinator for TWRA, who speaks for wildlife managers across North America. “With hunters’ assistance we can help keep CWD from spreading, keep the number of diseased deer to a minimum, and reduce disease rates where possible.”

And protect the future of deer hunting.


5 Top Spots For Trail Cameras in September

spartan drop tine 2018

  1. A small clearing in the woods 70 to 100 yards off an alfalfa, soybean, clover or corn field. Some mature bucks hang up in these areas in late afternoon before moving out to a field after dark.
  2. A bottleneck of thick cover on a deer trail that leads into a field. A big buck will usually walk the thickest route in, and you can get a close-up image of him.
  3. Back in the woods where two or more drainages with thick cover come together. Oak trees that drop acorns nearby make this a surefire bet for buck images. Especially good for those nocturnal giants that don’t get to a field until dark.
  4. “Our thousands of cam photos show mature bucks regularly use thin fingers of timber with a good mix of hardwoods and evergreens–the conifers provide the deer with increased security cover,” says whitetail biologist Mick Hellickson.
  5. Once you spot a big buck in a field, sneak in and set a camera on the nearest creek crossing, swamp pond, etc. you can find. As late summer deepens, mature bucks spend a lot of time hanging out near water in low, thick areas

How to Hunt Early-Season Deer

MO kevin jaegersFor years there was talk of a mysterious buck with massive drop tines roaming the part of Missouri where Kevin Jaegers’ father-in-law owns a farm. When trail-cam images of the 200-class freak started popping up—finally some hard evidence–Kevin got serious. He hung a tree stand on the farm last summer and vowed to hunt the monster hard in September.

This was a departure for Kevin, who normally doesn’t hunt that much in the early bow season. But he figured that if he was ever going to see Drops, the first days would be the best. After that, pressure in the area would likely turn the buck nocturnal.

Opening day came, and the wind was wrong for Kevin’s stand. “I tried to talk myself out of going that evening because the wind was blowing where I thought deer would bed and travel,” he said. But Kevin knew “the” buck was out there somewhere, and so he went.

With the leaves green and thick on the trees, Kevin couldn’t see far. He spotted a few does and then a small 8-pointer. “I looked behind him and there he was, I saw those drop tines!” said Kevin. Funny, he wasn’t that nervous. “Probably because I didn’t know he was there until he was 30 yards away. I didn’t time to think.”

When Double Drops walked behind a tree, Kevin drew his bow and fired. The cam images didn’t lie. The rack grossed 201 and netted 194 5/8, making it the top buck of early archery season 2011 and one of the coolest bucks killed all year. “I can’t believe I was in the right place at the right time on opening day,” Kevin said.

Well, believe it. The first days of your bow season in September or early October are second only to the rut for best time to kill big deer. The bucks have not been pressured for a year; they’re using small home ranges; and they’re walking predictable bed-to-feed patterns. You might not whack a 190-class titan like Kevin did, but a gnarly 8- or 10-pointer might be in your future if bowhunt hard and smart in a few weeks.

Food is the Key

Hang at least one tree stand on the edge of alfalfa, corn or beans where you’ve been seeing some bucks come to pig out the past few weeks. You have been scouting and glassing right? If not, get out there. You’ve still got time.

Watch a field from several hundred yards away for several evenings in a row. If you see a shooter pop out the same spot–for example, through the same corner or beside a round hay bale or big tree–move in one day at mid-morning and set a stand right there on the edge by your landmark. Forget what you might have read about big deer not making it to the feed before dark. Right now, the animals have not been pressured, and they are fairly lackadaisical on their patterns. A 140-class shooter or even a giant might stroll out into the field feed in the last minutes of light.

Pick an afternoon to hunt when the wind is not blowing anywhere toward your landmark and into the woods behind it. Sneak into your stand three hours before dark, climb up quietly and wait patiently for the action to begin, likely in the last half-hour.  

Hunt Water

Working water into your early-season routine is smart any year, especially during a dry summer. The hotter it is, the more deer linger in the shade around water. A river or creek, or pond or swamp that isn’t too stagnant is best. Sneak to a water hole from downwind and set up quietly, because some deer are sure to bedded close in the cover. During a hot spell you might score from a water stand morning or afternoon.

Go Nuts  

You can never go wrong by setting a bow stand near acorns that fall 100 yards or so off a field, food plot or water source. Some does and bucks will stop to stage and gnaw the nuts before heading out to a field later in the afternoon. Try to find white or read oaks that are just beginning to rain their nuts, and set a stand that is easy to access on the downwind side of where you expect deer to appear.

Hunt Smart

Every time John Schmucker spotted the 36-point giant in the summer he was traveling with three smaller bucks. When Schmucker went out hunting with his crossbow on September 30 that year, the first deer he spotted was one of those little guys. He knew the monster was close so he got ready. A few minutes later there he was!  John’s bolt was spot-on. The Schmucker buck, with a non-typical net of 291 2/8, is the largest buck ever shot with a crossbow in Ohio.

John killed one of the nation’s all-time monsters largely by thinking and being smart. He remembered the makeup of that summer bachelor group and used that knowledge to his advantage. The lesson: As you glass and/or study trail-camera images of a buck group in late summer, study the makeup of it because most of those deer will run together into October. If spot one of the bucks comes close, the others are close, too.

Warm-Weather Deer Care

The first weeks of bow season it is too hot to leave a deer overnight. If you stick a buck late, round up a buddy, get powerful lights and go find your deer before it spoils. Look all night if you have to.

Field-dress a deer quickly, and hang it in an open shed or in a shade tree and skin it. Carry the carcass to a cold-storage facility, or bone out the meat and store in a fridge or pack on ice.