In June 2023 I blogged: Many areas in the West and Deep South have received plenty of moisture this spring, so I think any outbreaks of Hemorrhagic Disease (HD) — either epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) virus or bluetongue virus– in whitetails will be spotty and insignificant. But I see potential trouble spots in the Midwest… where conditions range from abnormally dry to exceptional drought in many areas. Moderate drought conditions also exist eastward across the upper Midwest to Pennsylvania and south into the Virginia Piedmont…so I’m on the lookout for EHD in these regions too.
There were no reports of any HD outbreaks anywhere in America throughout the summer and early fall, but in mid-September HD reared its ugly head in 2 states as I had predicted.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission announced that 30 to 40 deer found dead in the vicinity of State Game Lands 214 in North Shenango and Sadsbury townships, Crawford County, succumbed to HD.
And earlier this week the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) confirmed HD in deer in Cole, Greene, Howell, Miller, St. Louis, and Webster counties. MDC has also received at least 305 reports of additional suspected HD cases from locations throughout the state.
MDC Private Lands Deer Biologist Kevyn Wiskirchen indicated that while there may be some impacts during this year’s season in localized areas that have experienced significant deer deaths from HD, the overall hunting outlook remains good.
Only 2 states reporting HD this late in the year is GREAT NEWS. 2023 is going to be a very light HD year across America. The first hard frost of the fall, which will occur in many states that are prone to HD outbreaks, will happen in a matter of weeks. Frost kills the gnats that bite the deer and infect them with EHD or bluetongue, effectively ending an outbreak of the disease for the year.
Signs of HD in deer: Clinical signs of HD vary but include an unwillingness of a deer to move, difficulty breathing, and swelling of the head, neck, or tongue. HD can cause a high fever, prompting infected deer to seek water. Deer that are sick may appear dazed, lethargic, and nonresponsive. Deer that die from HD usually do so in a matter of days following infection and are often found dead in or near water with no outward signs of illness.
No matter where you bowhunt the next few weeks, be on the lookout for sick-acting or dead deer, and report any suspected cases of HD to a local game warden or state biologist.