I hope I’m wrong about this, but I’m afraid you are about to lose your deer.
That up-and-coming buck that you passed last year, knowing his 140 inches will be 160 this year? Gone. That old drop-tine veteran that always shows up just before the rut? He’s turned to soil. Those mature does, fat with backstrap tallow that you were planning to turn to jerky and rump roasts? They’re dead.
They are the victims of epizootic hemorrhagic disease, or EHD, the greatest killer of whitetails this continent has ever seen. It’s a disease that doesn’t discriminate between young or old, black-swamp or farm-field deer, trophy or management buck, though it does seem to select bucks in the prime of their antler-growing velvet.
And it may very well be creeping toward the place you hunt, taking the deer you thought you were managing.
We have already discussed what EHD is and how it spreads. So, how do you know if it’s going to affect your area? Well, there’s no way to accurately forecast its spread, but what we do know is that this summer’s climatic conditions are nearly perfect for an outbreak of historic proportions.
It tends to be worse in years of prolonged drought, which concentrates deer around available water. And because the virus is spread by a biting midge, the later we go into the fall without a killing frost, the worst the epidemic will be. Lastly, we have deer densities at or near historic highs in much of whitetail country. That means there are more animals to contract the disease, and to pass their infected blood on to their brethren.
Here are the places that have had reports of EHD so far this summer. Keep in mind, there is often a time lag between the first reports of dead and dying deer and confirmation of the disease, so these outbreaks are likely on the earliest leading edge of a wider outbreak of hemorrhagic disease.
MICHIGAN: Mainly Ionia and Calhoun counties, with about 1,000 mortalities confirmed statewide so far.
NORTH CAROLINA: As many as 80 deer have been confirmed to be killed by EHD in two northwestern counties.
IOWA: The state’s Department of Natural Resources alerted sportsmen of detection of dead deer near water sources around the state. No word on specifically affected areas or numbers of affected deer.
NEBRASKA: The state’s Game and Parks Commission has confirmed a widespread deer kill along the Platte River through the eastern portion of the Cornhusker State. Mortality is still being quantified, but it appears to number in the thousands.
INDIANA: Morgan and Putnam counties have contributed the highest number of EHD mortalities so far, but 11 counties in the state have confirmed EHD kills.
MISSOURI: The state’s Department of Conservation is tracking a number of unconfirmed cases of EHD, from the southwestern corner of the Show-Me State to the northern border with Iowa.