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.

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.

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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

Kansas Sheds: The Electric-Fence Buck

ks shed 2018 1

From our friend Mike Charowhas, The Antler Collector:

Around noon the other day I was driving in central Kansas and passed a truck on a 2-lane with an older couple in it. About 5 min later, I looked in my rear view and saw that same truck getting closer and fast. Hmm. Their headlights start flickering so I pulled over.

The truck pulled up alongside me and the Missus says, “Hey, we saw you go by. We have antlers. Do you live around here?”

They couldn’t miss The Antler Collector logo on my truck. I said, “Yes I live not too far away.”

She gave me their number said, “Please call us if you’re passing by.”

I said, “Okay great.” I proceeded on my way and got to thinking about it. I called them and left a message.

About 20 minutes later the husband called me back and said sorry we missed you, but we are home now. I asked where and by luck I was only 15 minutes away.

I headed over and they invited me in. We talked for 15 minutes and the man said, “I have something I don’t think you’ve ever seen.”

I said, “Well let’s take a look,” and we proceeded out to his workshop.

What I saw did amaze me. I never had seen anything like it, and I have seen a lot of antlers!

ks sheds 3

The gentleman had found the sheds—heavy, tall-tined upper 150s/160 class–10 years ago beside a pond on his property while out bird hunting. From my understanding, one of his neighbors that year had lost 1/4 mile of electric fence and never could figure out where the heck it gone. The mystery was solved when these sheds were found.

I was surprised the deer had survived, and even more amazed that he was able to shed his antlers and slip them off his face! Incredible.

After talking it over with the man, we worked out a deal and I was able to bring the unique sheds home.

James and Janice are quite the couple. They are both 80 years old and look amazing. After 58 years of marriage they are still going strong. The antlers are rare, but even rarer is the pleasure of meeting two great people so dedicated to one another. It was a pleasure today.–Mike