Deer hunting in Pennsylvania is calling on you to help save it. It’s calling on you to save it for future generations like hunters did at the turn of the 20th century when herd numbers were decimated by overhunting for sale on the open market. With the recent expansion of Chronic Wasting Disease Management Area #4 in Lancaster County, from 397 square miles to 746, many hunters are seeing an uncertain future literally at their doorstep.
Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a disease that has been found in the neurological systems of deer species. The species at risk in Pennsylvania are our white tail deer and elk populations. It causes deer infected with the disease to lose motor function and not eat so they literally waste away until they ultimately succumb to the disease.
This neurological disease afflicting white tail deer (the state mammal and arguably most hunted species) is always fatal to the deer. Now more than before legal, physical, and cultural demands are being placed on Pennsylvania’s hunters. It’s similar to Mad Cow disease, so the discussion seems to circle back to can humans consume these deer and become sick themselves? Currently the answer is no. There are no documented cases of animal to human transition.
Experts strongly recommend that no human consume deer that has positively identified as having CWD. This is the start, and strangely the end of the discussion, because if the disease spreads and we can’t eat CWD positive deer, why bother hunting them? That sentiment is what has generations of a strong deer hunting culture in this state up at night.
No hunter wants to endanger the lives of family and friends, and no hunter wants to lose the deer hunting way of life as well. So rather than giving up on the patient, hunters in these areas of the state are being called on to help turn back and defeat the disease.
Looking into this subject can overload almost anyone with information. The biggest thing to remember is if you kill a deer in one of the DMA zones, do not, under any circumstance remove the deer’s high-risk carcass parts from that area. This is mainly the brain, eyes, spinal column along with the spleen and lymph nodes.
Not moving these parts to areas of the state that are unaffected is one of the biggest ways to turn this around. Every DMA will have meat processors and taxidermists available to take care of your deer, and the game commission will have dumpsters located for you to leave the head for testing free of charge. This way you can be sure of whether or not your deer actually even has CWD.
You can keep your antlers, you can keep your meat, and you can keep hunting all while helping to fight to keep this tradition alive by using some tactical protocol. It’s worth taking a few minutes to prepare for this year’s upcoming deer season and find out if you hunt in one of these areas across the state. https://www.pgc.pa.gov/Wildlife/Wildlife-RelatedDiseases/Pages/ChronicWastngDisease.aspx is a great resource that answers a lot of questions most hunters have.
Thanks to the hunters who answered the call when deer herds were decimated, we’ve had over a century’s worth of opportunity for memories at camp, early mornings with friends and family to build and strengthen bonds through hunting whitetails. Hopefully as this generation of hunters answers the call to fight back CWD, we’ll have another century to enjoy.