As the days become shorter, the leaves begin to change colors, and the north winds move in, sportsmen and women across the Midwest are recognizing the fast approach of the white-tailed deer rut. Commonly peaking around mid-November, the rut (i.e., deer breeding season) represents the most exciting time to find oneself sitting in the deer woods. In fact, over 1/3 of all deer harvested in Missouri in 2018 were taken during the opening weekend of the mid-November fall firearms season. With this increase in time spent afield, and the increase in deer harvest that accompanies this effort, many state wildlife management agencies take advantage of the opportunity to collect state-wide deer herd data.
These annual herd monitoring efforts include extensive sampling for diseases like Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). To accomplish this feat, each state has designed their own sampling system and requirements. For example, Missouri and Arkansas require sampling in high risk areas (commonly referred to as CWD management or containment zones) during certain periods of the deer season, while offering voluntary sampling statewide. Other states, such as Nebraska and Kansas, allow hunters to collect and submit their own samples for testing. This usually involves mailing the lymph nodes of harvested deer to a state veterinary diagnostics lab. Regardless of the sampling and testing requirements and opportunities available, hunters are encouraged to take advantage of CWD sampling programs in their state. Doing so provides peace of mind to hunters and invaluable data to state wildlife management agencies.
In addition to being aware of sampling requirements and opportunities, hunters should also pay attention to laws and regulations that govern antler point restrictions, baiting, and the transportation and disposal of deer carcasses. Unlike many other diseases that are spread primarily by non-human factors (e.g. Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease [EHD]), the risk of human activities resulting in the spread of CWD is a major concern. Because of this, many states have established transportation restrictions that limit the transportation of harvested deer or deer parts to deboned meat and finished taxidermy products only. As conservationists, hunters should take the time to understand these regulations and take precautions to limit the spread of this formidable disease. For more information on your state’s testing and transportation regulations, visit your state wildlife management agency’s website.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?