Monday, February 6th, 2023
Monday, February 6th, 2023

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Bowhunters head into season with optimism

Springfield — How’s this for a change: bowhunters are actually opening the season with a hint of optimism – at least they are not expecting to find scores of dead deer scattered throughout the woods.

After a few years of watching the herd take hard hits from blue tongue and epizootic hemorrhagic disease, the summer of 2014 has been relatively uneventful on the deer disease front. Even the national scene has been quiet, evident by recent news from the Quality Deer Management Association, which reported that hemorrhagic diseases ­– including EHD and bluetongue virus – seems to have “taken a break this summer.”

“A small number of reports are trickling in from scattered states, but we’re not seeing any nationwide trends or large outbreaks this year,” said Dr. David Stallknecht, a scientist with the Southeast Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study at the University of Georgia.
 

Stallknecht said one or two positive cases had come in from each of a handful of states scattered in the south and north.

As for Illinois and the rest of the Midwest, “We won’t see a big outbreak at this point. I expect a few cases to keep trickling in, but we’ve never had a large outbreak pop up this late in the year,” he said.

Following a string of serious Illinois outbreaks in 2007 and 2012 – hunters taking to their October treestands in those years often reported finding deer carcasses from the summer – this season looks clear.

Archery season opened Oct. 1. Last year’s season ran 111 days and resulted in a harvest of 57,364, down from the 59,805 the year before. A total of 216,193 archery permits were sold by DNR for the 2013-14 season.
EHD count under-estimated

On the books, Illinois lost roughly 4,000 deer over the past three years to EHD, but that number has been proven extremely conservative.

A report released this summer by the Illinois Natural History Survey’s Human Dimensions Program indicated that a large percentage of Illinois hunters who found dead deer last summer and fall did not report their discoveries to DNR, in essence skewing dramatically the actual number of deer that fell victim to the 2013 EHD and blue tongue outbreak.

According to Craig Miller, who authored “Illinois Hunters’ Attitudes toward Seasons, Bag Limits, and Regulations 2013-14” with Brent Williams and Andrew Stephenson, more than 94 percent of the hunters who indicated they saw dead deer between July and October last year did not report the dead deer. At the same time, more than 57 percent of those hunters said they believed the diseases had led to a decrease in the number of deer in the areas they hunt.
Blue tongue findings

While it was focused on livestock, a new study out of California may have solved one mystery about the blue tongue virus.

The virus, which infect deer, elk, cattle, goats and sheep, manages to survive the winter by reproducing in the insect that transmits it, reported veterinary scientists at the University of California-Davis.

“By conducting this epidemiological study on a commercial dairy farm in northern California, we were able to demonstrate that the virus overwinters in female midges that had fed on an infected animal during the previous season,” said lead author Christie Mayo, a veterinarian in the UC-Davis Veterinary school.

“This discovery has important ramifications for predicting the occurrence of blue  tongue and, we hope, for eventually developing controls for the disease,” said co-author James MacLachlan, a UC Davis veterinary professor and viral disease expert.

Blue tongue disease, first identified during the 1800s in southern Africa, is transmitted by the Culicoides biting midge, a tiny gnat sometimes referred to as a “no-seeum.”

Blue tongue in the wild is often confused with EHD, though they are different viruses.

Researchers documented, for the first time, the presence of genetic material for the blue tongue virus in female midges that were collected during two consecutive winter seasons. They concluded that those long-lived female midges had been infected with the blue tongue virus during the previous warm-weather season. They were carrying the virus through the winter months and would later in the season once again transmit it to wild and domestic animals.

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