Today’s blog comes from Mike Hanback of Big Deer TV. Mike has been writing about whitetails since the 1990′s and is considered by many as an expert on the subject. For more information about Mike, you can follow him on Twitter, find him on Facebook or visit his website at www.mikehanback.com
Last August I got the devastating text: Bad news, EHD killing deer in droves out here, call me…
I called Brian and he said that in alfalfa fields where we sometimes see 50 to 60 deer, and some dandy bucks, he was seeing one or two does and fawns. One rancher saw a 10-pointer staggering around with his tongue hanging out. People were reporting dead deer “piled up” along the Milk River with the “stench of death in the air.”
Epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) had hit the hallowed Montana ground where I have bowhunted for a decade and filmed some of my best TV shows. The disease, spread by infected midges that bite deer, had literally destroyed the herd, killing more than 90 percent of the whitetails along the 5-mile stretch of river where we hunt. This year the woods out there are still a tomb. People say it might be 5 years or longer before the herd builds back to solid huntable numbers.
EHD is a nasty, infectious viral disease of white-tailed deer that shows up only in the summer months. The disease, symptomized by hemorrhaging, fever, foaming-at-the-mouth and an urge for infected deer to go to fresh water, has caused minor to significant die-offs of whitetails over the years across the United States. The first hard frost in September or October kills the midges that spread the disease and ends the threat for that year.
While the 2011 EHD kill along the Milk River in Montana was the worst-case scenario, hunters and biologists are once again monitoring potential EDH outbreaks across the nation, especially in this summer of epic drought when whitetails are concentrated around limited water supplies. Outbreaks have been confirmed across Nebraska, from the Missouri River west to Garden County; in 8 Michigan counties; and in northeast Oklahoma near Verdigris River. Just this week a hunter from southern Illinois sent me this picture of an incredible 200-class buck that was recently found dead near a pond; tissue samples are being tested, but EHD (or the similar nasty virus Blue Tongue) is suspected. Dead deer with EHD symptoms have also been reported in various parts of Iowa and northern Missouri, as well as eastward into Delaware, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
Look at that giant buck again. If a bowhunter had killed it in a few weeks, it would have been one of the top archery bucks of 2012! Sad it had to die this way.
Will EHD affect your hunting this fall? If you hunt in one the aforementioned areas where the disease has been confirmed, it certainly could, so check your DNR’s website for EHD updates.
But in other areas, even if EHD has hit or will hit late this month or in early September, any deer kill is apt to be localized and minor to moderate. Still, it bears monitoring. As you’re out scouting, be on the lookout for dead deer, especially around rivers, streams and ponds. Report any dead or sick animals to the local conservation officer or DNR office. If you don’t see or hear of any dead bucks by the first bug-killing frost in late September or October, you’re home free.