With the changing of the leaves and the onset of fall weather, October heralds the beginning of deer season in Mississippi.
Many will be hitting the woods to take advantage of the archery season which opens October 1. Inevitably, the beginning of another deer season also spurs questions regarding Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) and how this affects your hunting season from the harvest to transporting and sampling.
CWD was first detected in Mississippi in 2018 and remains the primary threat to whitetail deer in the Magnolia State. Many hunters may be asking, “Should I be concerned about CWD this hunting season? What should I do to help slow the spread of this disease and reduce human exposure?”
Keeping it under control
According to William McKinley with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, CWD is spreading.
“We are finding positives outside the range of the previous year’s positives and adding new affected counties,” he said. “Last year, there was one new positive county added in Mississippi and a total of 15 new positive counties added if you look at Mississippi and the adjacent states of Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee and Alabama”.
When asked if hunters should be concerned about CWD and their deer harvest this year, he responded: “Yes you should be concerned. Early detection offers the best opportunity to keep the disease under control. Last year in Benton County one in six bucks sampled tested positive for the disease. MDWFP continues to work with surrounding states to slow the spread. Louisiana and Alabama each detected their first positive cases last year.”
Finally, when asked about precautions and advice for hunters, McKinley had this to say: “Mississippi’s deer herd is increasing statewide. I would encourage hunters to harvest deer up to the legal limit to assist with controlling the numbers of deer statewide. Stay informed. Updates are posted frequently at mdwfp.com/cwd.
“Finally, submit samples of your harvested deer. MDWFP is operating 64 sample drop-off freezers statewide and is also working with participating taxidermists to obtain samples. Simply place the head minus the antlers in a bag, fill out the card, and drop in one of the sample freezer locations or take the whole head you plan to mount to your participating taxidermist.”
This process is completely free and test results are available online within 2-3 weeks. MDWFP personnel are personally contacting hunters that obtain a positive result. For the list of sample drop-off locations and participating taxidermists please visit mdwfp.com/cwd.
Also remember that supplemental feeding is prohibited in any of the CWD Management Zones. This includes salt licks, mineral licks, and feeders. Carcasses are not to be transported out of a particular CWD Management Zone.
Follow the rules
Make sure you understand all the regulations and follow them.
You are allowed to transport cut or wrapped meat, deboned meat, hides detached from the head, bone-in leg quarters, finished taxidermy, antlers with no tissue attached, cleaned skulls or skull plates with no brain tissue.
Hunters may transport a deer head to a permitted taxidermist participating in the CWD collection program. A CWD sample number must be obtained from the participating taxidermist prior to transporting the deer head outside of the MDWFP-defined CWD Management Zone.
Keep the meat from each deer harvested together and separated from other deer that you are harvesting until you are able to get the test results back. Also consider wearing rubber gloves when field dressing or handling the carcass or raw meat. If a deer appears to be diseased, do not process or further handle the animal. If not, debone the meat, removing the fat, connective tissue, and lymph nodes. Try to avoid sawing through bones, the spinal cord and brain.
It is recommended to dispose of unwanted portions of the carcass at the harvest site or you can double bag and take to an approved landfill. Watch closely for deer that appear to be noticeably underweight, exhibit excessive salivation, or behave in an erratic manner including a reduced fear of humans. Report deer that appear to be diseased immediately on the MDWFP app, at mdwfp.com/cwd or by calling 1-800-BE-SMART.
Often infected animals may not show any visible signs of disease. That is why the sampling process is so important to tracking and trying to contain the spread of the disease in the state.
In conclusion, let’s all be responsible and do our part this hunting season to help slow the spread. Good luck hunting!