OUTDOORS: Hunters need not fear CWD

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 21, 2002


With most all of the state open for deer this weekend Louisiana hunters concerned about the CWD threat can rest a little easier.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries announced that as of last week all deer samples tested negative for the dreaded Chronic Wasting Disease. CWD has been found in wild deer and/or elk in seven states as well as Canada.

Biologist Larry Savage said that of the 140 samples collected from a 24-parish area, the results of all 20 of the 45 that have been sent to laboratories in Iowa so far were negative. That is good news but the threat is far from over.

The department plans a testing and surveillance program that will span 3-5 years.

CWD is a neurodegenerative disease that following a long incubation period that may last as long as 18 months to 5 years. Until symptoms appear, infected animals may appear normal.

And that is why the disease is so dangerous. Common symptoms include emaciation, increased drinking and urination, general weakness, dropped head and ears, dehydration, depression and behavioral changes.

There is neither live test nor any treatment and it is always fatal. Little is known about how it is spread from animal to animal.

CWD outbreaks can be devastating. The governor of Wisconsin where CWD has been found in wild and pen-raised deer said that $22,500,000 would be needed over the next three years to control that state’s outbreak.

Deer hunting in Louisiana has an economic impact of $6 million annually and an outbreak here would have serious consequences to the deer population, deer hunting and the associated industry.

The state’s goal this year is to collect and test 500 samples from a variety of sources across the state including hunting enclosures, Deer Management Assistance Program clubs and from Wildlife Management Areas.

Many hunters are asking what can they do to help protect Louisiana’s deer herd from CWD. The department is asking anyone seeing sick deer to contact them and to cooperate with testing and surveillance efforts and to report any illegal activities including importation of deer and elk by calling 800-442-2511.

To learn more about CWD the LDWF is making a pamphlet “Questions and Facts about Chronic Wasting Disease in Louisiana” available at its regional offices or by accessing www.cwd-info.org/ or www.wlf.state.la.us.

Old is new in deer book

“There are more tensions released, anguishes soothed and racking decisions realized on our fishing waters and in our deer forests than in the offices of psychiatrists or family consultants, or in the offices of all the other trouble shooters for our ailing humanity.”

From this George Mattis quote from his book Whitetail: Fundamentals and Fine Points for the Hunter, you understand that he was as much a naturalist and philosopher as a hunter. And modern-day deer hunters who seem to be caught up in the “hunting more but enjoying it less” syndrome may find a refreshing turn of events buried within its 225 pages.

Make no mistake this book contains a wealth of tips and information for successful deer hunting. But equally important are the messages that lie beneath the techniques, clothing ammunition and other equipment suggestions.

Mattis in his insightful manner delves into things rarely written about today like “beginner’s luck,” “buck fever” and the relationships between older and younger hunters.

While today’s hunters seem to be in a “rut” of their own, merely hunting from the comfort of a shooting box over a food plot, Mattis revives some of his more obscure, yet rewarding hunting methods many of today’s hunters have either forgotten or never learned.

Mattis, time and again alerts the reader to the many working wonders of nature that are too often overlooked. Considering today’s fast-paced environment, it is easy to understand how and why we modern day hunters miss so much that often plays out right before our eyes.

Stalking, driving and employing the tactics of small game hunters and explaining why they work prove Mattis had a phenomenal knowledge of whitetail biology and behavior. In fact throughout the book, constant snippets of the role of deer biology are entwined in his interesting tales of many of his personal successful hunts.

The black and white photograph section of the book is more about documentation and explanation than of art. And certainly not done in today’s “politically correct” style.

These are not the typical “sanitized” versions of deer kills. And while non-hunters may be upset by some of the graphic depictions, it is a welcome throwback to the days of “reality photography” hunters see so little of in today’s publications.

If there is a shortcoming anywhere in the book, it has to deal with the selection of clothing.

But it is no fault of George’s, as Gore-Tex and Holofil were yet to be discovered in his time. Then again by the book’s end readers will agree enough is learned about Mattis to know if he were around to hunt today, he would still be wearing his favorite – wool.

At $34.95 the hardcover book is a great holiday hunting season gift idea.

DON DUBUC is the outdoors reporter for L’Observateur.