There’s a lot of recent talk is about chronic wasting disease (CWD) and its ability to destroy herds. CWD deserves every bit of the press time it gets (and even a little more). However, hemorrhagic disease (HD), commonly referred to as epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD), takes its toll on whitetail populations, too. Louisiana is one state currently sounding the EHD alarm. Scott Durham, deer study leader with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, confirmed the rumors.
“I’m a little concerned about our deer herd,” Durham said. “We’re getting quite a few reports of HD and blue tongue virus (BTV) throughout the state, [with] more reports in southern Louisiana.”
Durham is still confident in a good hunting season despite the presence of EHD.
“It’s about an average deer hunting year,” he said. “We have a lot of acorns. It’s dry. We need a little more rain to finish off [the mast crop].”
There are also some EHD reports from neighboring Mississippi. Lan Wilf, deer program leader for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, shed some light. “We’re having a bit of a stressful year in the South,” he said. “HD and drought are affecting our deer, especially the older bucks.”
Like Durham, Wilf is still confident the deer season will be satisfactory.
“I’m looking at a heavy mast crop,” he said. “If we get the right weather, we could have an intense rut, especially in the north. In that part of the state we have a lot of bucks in the 3- and 4-year-old age class. HD has impacted that number some, but we should still see a good year.”
My sources in Arkansas haven’t heard of any recent cases of disease. My guess is EHD will be a minimal factor—if a factor at all—in Arkansas this year. One thing that is currently a factor: mast and weather.
“There isn’t much activity,” said The Virtue co-host Jay Jackson. “It’s mainly after-dark movement, but there’s a front moving in. Stay in the timber. Oaks are dropping good. Bucks are still in their bachelor groups for the most part.”
Disease doesn’t seem to be as much of an issue farther east, either. Charles Ruth, a deer biologist with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, expressed little concern.
“In 2014, we had reports of EHD in 13 of 46 counties,” Ruth said. “This year, I had a call from Clarendon County about a [landowner] who had found a couple dead deer.” That’s the only case of EHD to his knowledge this year.
As for me in South Carolina, I’m biding my time. The activity is slow. Cooler weather within the last week has had does and young bucks on their feet during daylight, but mature bucks seem to be holding to their nighttime patterns. The primitive weapons season opens for me on Thursday. If the weather cooperates, that will be my first sit of the year in South Carolina.