Aiding Pennsylvania Game Commission, Department of Agriculture in fight against CWD is imperative

I recently returned from three days of hunting deer in Tioga County during the junior/senior anterless season.

I hunted Thursday evening, Friday morning and evening, and Saturday morning. On each outing I saw numerous deer, including eight different racked buck, all of which were small. I had many young anterless deer at easy harvest range, but passed on them in the hopes of shooting a bigger doe. That opportunity never materializing.

On Saturday morning, with decent light filling a section of woods with tall scattered hemlocks where I rested comfortably against one of the giant trees, I caught movement to my left on a steep hillside. Two yearlings were easing their way down the sloped ground that held growths of laurel, brush, assorted hardwoods and more hemlocks.

They slowly headed in my direction until they were a mere 10 yards from where I sat. There, one of them looked directly at me. It began an up-and-down head motion attempting to determine if I was friend or foe, or maybe food, or even a new type of forest growth it had never seen before.

Obviously unable to ascertain exactly what I was, it spun around, took two hops, and looked at me once again. A few seconds later it snorted some air through its young nose, half-heartedly raised its tail and took three more hops in a different direction, then slowly began to walk away. Its startled sibling – at least I assume it was a brother or sister – not knowing what caused the other to reverse course, inverted course also. If mom was around, she never showed herself as I watched the two youngsters slowly move out of sight.

It was one of those moments, usually short in duration, when we as hunters are able to watch wild whitetails up close in all their grace.

A minute or so after that pair moved from sight, I thought of how important deer are to the outdoor world, and more specifically, to the world of hunters.

It’s completely bizarre that I cannot recall ever considering beforehand just how vital white-tailed deer are to the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the hunting population they oversee, but at that moment I realized that without deer, the agency would be a miniature institute compared to how it exists today.

That in turn led me to thinking about the present threat of chronic wasting disease and the brutal reality of losing both deer and elk across the landscape of our state, and the complex challenge facing the Game Commission in its efforts to control and possibly end this menace.

I was privileged a short time back to be part of a small group of outdoor writers invited to educational seminars, plus question-and-answer sessions, hosted by the commission and Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture outlining their current knowledge of, and their structured fight against, CWD.

These were smart and well-educated people leading these discussions, and trust me when I say, they fully understand the magnitude of CWD and the harm it could possibly unleash across not only Pennsylvania, but also all of North and South America if given enough time to spread.

Nor are they sitting idle, just talking, without undertaking physical efforts to combat CWD. Already practices are in place, initiated by the Department of Agriculture, to change fencing and feeding systems in deer farms (the original source of CWD in Pennsylvania) that will lessen possible contact with wild deer. Five-line fencing has been installed for its efficiency to stop deer and elk from moving into contaminated areas. Testing procedures are being studied for both soil and cervid species (deer and elk in our state) that could help quicken results of locating sickened animals.

The Game Commission has increased places where hunters can have their deer checked for CWD, and the agency has created specific zones where CWD has been found in deer. It is also determining how other states have approached this problem and the results of their efforts, overall being cautious not to rush to any conclusions about what will work best.

Like everything else, this problem, if it can be overcome, will take much in the form of resources, and certainly money – most likely lots of money.

It would be wise for hunters and anyone else with a valid concern for our wild deer and elk populations within Pennsylvania to offer support to the commission and Department of Agriculture, and follow through with all recommendations and personal efforts they ask of individuals to help in this battle.

It is not the time, nor does it serve any purpose, to criticize these people in their efforts, because in essence, helping them is helping us. If you enjoy deer and deer hunting, you have no other choice.

Categories: Bloggers on Hunting, CWD, Pennsylvania – Ron Steffe, Whitetail Deer

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