Summer Deer Scouting: Mock Scrapes And Trail Cameras

mock summer scrapeA new regulation this year in Virginia prohibits the use of minerals to attract deer in one of the counties I hunt. Since I’m now forced to give up monitoring mineral licks, I’m making mock scrapes and setting trail cameras beside them.

Several studies have shown that whitetail bucks will visit scrapes with fresh scent year-round, and especially in the summer months. The fake scrapes are good places (not as good as mineral licks, but the next best thing) to get images of bucks that will roam your area this fall.

A mock scrape is not only scent-based, but also a visual sign. Rake out at least a 2 foot by 3 foot area below an overhanging branch.  As you rake, envision a buck. He scrapes with his hooves primarily in one direction, and your raking should be done the same way, leaving the debris on the back side of the scrape.

Make your scrape below a prominent “lick” branch that bucks will most definitely rub with their eyes and racks, and chew on. The branch should be approximately 4 feet high–never touch it!

Use a dripper system with a scrape solution. Notes: 1) Do not use doe in heat or an estrus scent in the summer, but a basic deer smell; 2) Here in Virginia urine-based scents are prohibited, so I use synthetic scent in my drippers—check your regs.

While any dirt will do, the best mock scrapes have soils with real deer scent in them. Once you create a mock scrape in a spot you really like this summer, make it a point to collect urine-soaked soil and droppings from real scrapes later this fall. Rake an existing scrape down to bare soil and trowel 3 to 5 pounds of the deer-scent dirt into a plastic bag.

Carry the dirt to a mock scrape and spread it evenly across the soil. While this urine-scented soil is not necessary, it adds realism and makes for a quicker and a more consistently attended scrape year-round.

Tennessee To Hold CWD Workshops For Hunters, All States Should

tn cwdI have researched, written, blogged about and produced TV shows concerning Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), the biggest potential thread to deer herds and deer hunting to come down the pike in the last 50 years, maybe ever.

I still find myself confused and scratching my head as CWD is documented in new areas, and as wildlife agencies come out with new info and regulations for dealing with the disease in the short and long term.

I can only imagine how confused you, the average hunter who works hard and raises a family and doesn’t have time to research stuff like this, might be.

That’s why I was so glad to see a tweet from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) saying they will host 6 CWD workshops this summer in West Tennessee counties where the disease has been documented.

The first workshop will be in McNairy County July 7. Five more will be held in various locations through late August.

Experts from the TWRA and University of Tennessee will be on hand to answer all your questions, such as:

What exactly is CWD?

How can it impact my hunting?

I hunt the next county over from where CWD has been found, should I be worried?

Can I carry a buck home I shot in another county, or another state?

Can I eat the meat from a buck I shot in a CWD area?

Is deer meat possibly contaminated—can it hurt my family?

Should I have my deer tested for CWD? How and where do I do that?

 

You can read all you want about CWD (you should) and its potential risks and impacts, but there’s nothing like getting answers first-hand from experts and biologists on the ground like you’ll be able to do at these workshops.

I applaud Tennessee deer managers for having the vision and spending the money to do this, and I ask all state wildlife agencies to do the same in regions where CWD has been found.

Hunters and wildlife agencies working together is the best way to combat CWD!

 

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) 2019 Update

cwd map 2019

On this just released CWD tracking map focus on the light-gray blocks, which show the current confirmation of the disease in wild populations of deer. Cases in north Mississippi and west Tennessee are relatively new, as is the gray block in north-central Virginia (Culpeper County), 20 miles from where I hunt.

There are CWD deniers in the hunting industry, but I am not one of them. The scientists and organizations I work with and believe in regard CWD as a real threat with the real potential to disrupt if not decimate deer populations and hunting in the future.

Every year that I look at an updated CWD map, I see the expansion of the nasty disease, and we all must take the threat seriously.

Some of the latest development you need to know:

The Quality Deer Management Association supports ending all transportation of live deer to lower the risk of spreading CWD. This includes deer breeders (no more shipping live deer from one state or region to another) and state wildlife agencies (no more capturing deer, say, in an urban area and moving them to more rural counties).

All states have enacted some version of this law: If you kill a deer in or around a known CWD area, you cannot transport the whole carcass across state lines. At a minimum you must de-bone the meat, and saw off the antlers and clean the skull cap of brain matter before you take it home.

Basically, know that the days of loading a deer in your pickup and driving home will soon be gone. The new normal will be quartering and de-boning your deer, so plan on that.

All health professionals and deer scientists say that if you shoot a deer in or near a known CWD area, have the meat tested before you eat it. Gut and clean the deer, bone out the meat, freeze it and send a sample to a lab as recommended by your state wildlife agency. Don’t consume until you get the word back that it’s CDW free.

Go online and get CWD testing info specific to your state/region and know how to have the meat tested before the 2019 season.

Virginia: CWD Confirmed In Buck Shot In Culpeper County

cwd deer

The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) in my home state of Virginia has confirmed Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in a buck legally harvested in Culpeper County during the November 2018 rut.

CWD has been documented in northwest Virginia (Frederick and Shenandoah counties) for some 9 years, and we hunters in the Northern Piedmont have been holding our collective breath that it would not spread.

But it has. The latest infected buck was killed in Culpeper County, 40 miles south of the original CWD zone.

Officials discovered this CWD from a sample submitted by a local taxidermist in January 2019. At the time this deer was harvested, the hunter did not notice any outward signs of disease, and the buck appeared to be in good condition.

In a press release, DGIF said it is too early to characterize the geographic spread of the disease in Culpeper or to determine how many deer in the area are infected. Because CWD was not confirmed in Culpeper until after the 2018 deer season closed, DGIF did not have the opportunity to work with local hunters to test large numbers of deer from the area.

DGIF will conduct preliminary disease surveillance in Culpeper and surrounding counties this spring and summer to make preliminary assessments about the occurrence of the disease. Methods of sample collection include working with road-kill collection contractors, responding to calls from the public about sick deer, and working with farmers and other landowners who have experienced damage from deer.

Experience in Virginia and other states has shown that it can take several years before the true extent of a CWD “outbreak” becomes clear. That is one of the most troubling aspects of CWD.

The Virginia DGIF is in the process of determining appropriate measures moving forward for Culpeper and surrounding counties, including neighboring Fauquier where I do most of my local deer hunting. These measures may include the delineation of a Disease Management Area, carcass transport restrictions, feeding restrictions, and the like.

I predict there will be changes coming to hunting in our region. The days of loading a deer in a pickup and driving over the county line are likely over (hunters will have to quarter and de-bone the meat).

Currently in summer, we can use mineral sites and bait in front of trail cameras OUTSIDE of hunting season to scout for bucks and monitor herds, but that could change. Virginia already mandates the use of synthetic deer scents, so no change there.

Most certainly hunters will be encouraged to have their deer meat tested for CWD before eating it.

DGIF officials will notify hunters of any changes to the regulations in the area this summer and a public meeting will be scheduled in Culpeper County to address questions and concerns about the Department’s planned management approach to CWD in this area.

I would like to give a big shout-out to the Virginia DGIF for their efforts to monitor this disease. Last season, the DGIF worked with 50 taxidermists statewide to enhance Virginia’s CWD surveillance. Participating taxidermists submitted more than 1,600 samples from harvested deer, including the one from Culpeper that tested positive.

ABOUT CWD: This incurable disease has been detected in 26 states and 3 Canadian provinces. It is a slow and progressive neurological disease that ultimately results in death of the deer. The disease-causing agent is spread through the urine, feces, and saliva of infected animals. Noticeable symptoms include staggering, abnormal posture, lowered head, drooling, confusion, and marked weight loss.

There is no conclusive evidence that CWD can be transmitted naturally to humans, livestock, or pets, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention instructs hunters to test all deer harvested from known CWD-positive areas and to not consume any animals that test positive for the disease.

For more information about CWD: www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/disease/cwd.

More CWD Confusion: Is Deer Meat Safe To Eat?

deer meatAs if we needed more confusion about Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) and its impacts on deer populations and the future of hunting, not to mention the gathering of venison to feed our families, a PhD and public-health scientist has thrown gasoline on the fire by stating, “I think the risk is very high” that CWD could be transmitted to humans that consume infected deer meat.

Mainstream media outlets, including U.S. News & World Reports, have picked up these recent statements and run with it, using terms like “death, dying and zombie  deer” that have stoked yet more confusion and fright about the disease. 

The National Deer Alliance (NDA) responds in an editorial from its president and CEO, Nick Pinizzotto:

The NDA reminds hunters…that there remains no scientific evidence that chronic wasting disease (CWD) is transmissible to humans….

“Recent statements by Dr. Michael Osterholm from the University of Minnesota regarding the likelihood that human cases of CWD are probable and possibly substantial in number are speculative and sensational, and are not supported by current scientific evidence,” said Nick Pinizzotto, president and CEO of NDA.“Mr. Osterholm’s predictions have created needless confusion in a situation that is already rife with contradictory opinions regarding CWD impacts on the conservation of wild deer and those who enjoy deer as a natural source of protein….”

…it is important that words are chosen wisely, and that the focus is on what is known about the disease, as opposed to speculating on what is not known. Actions taken in response to CWD must be based on the best available science. After more than 50 years of history with CWD, undoubtedly thousands, if not tens of thousands, of infected animals have been eaten, yet there remains no human case of the disease.

The NDA points out that The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to state there is no strong evidence for the occurrence of CWD transmission in humans.

But, and this is what you as a deer hunter need to remember right now, the CDC still recommends that humans not eat deer that test positive for the disease out of an abundance of caution. If you hunt in or near an area where CDW has been detected in deer, you must have the meat tested before eating it.

The NDA agrees with the guidance from CDC but reiterates that the agency does not state transmission to humans is either likely or inevitable.

“The last thing we need to do is scare people away from consuming deer meat…,” said Pinizzotto. “Further research is needed to answer the many important questions we have about CWD and how to manage it, but until science tells us more, we have to move forward armed with the best information available, and nothing more.”