The discovery of chronic wasting disease in three wild deer taken during the 2012 hunting season here in south-central Pennsylvania will impact many hunters in our region during the upcoming hunting seasons, beginning with opening of archery season just two weeks from now. CWD is a disease that attacks the central nervous system of species in the deer family, including whitetails, mule deer, elk and moose. CWD is contagious, and when an animal becomes infected with CWD, the disease is always fatal. There is no way to test live animals for CWD, nor is there any vaccine or cure for it. Once CWD gains a foothold in a given area, the disease always gets worse and always spreads.
To help control the spread of CWD and to monitor the extent of the current outbreak, the Pennsylvania Game Commission has designated a disease management area spanning about 900 square miles that comprises most of Blair County, most of Bedford County north of Route 30, part of Huntingdon County south of Route 22 and west of Raystown Lake and the Raystown Branch of the Juniata River and a portion of Cambria County south of Route 22 and west of Blair County. Those who live or hunt deer in this DMA are now subject to a number of special restrictions and regulations. Complete information regarding those rules along with detailed maps and the exact boundaries of the DMA can be found on the Game Commission website, pgc.state.pa.us.
The direct or indirect feeding of deer within the DMA is prohibited along with the use or possession of urine-based deer attractants. Instead of requiring all hunters who take a deer within the DMA to take their deer to a check station for disease testing, the Game Commission will take random samples from 1,000 deer harvested in the DMA to determine the scope the CWD outbreak. If a deer tests positive for CWD, the Game Commission will inform the hunter. No evidence exists that CWD can be transmitted to humans, but as a further precaution, hunters are being advised not to eat the meat from any animal that tests positive for CWD.
Hunters can have their deer tested by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture laboratory in Harrisburg. The fee for this test will be about $75. Information on how to submit the deer head for testing can be obtained by calling Department of Agriculture at 717-787-8808 or on their website, www.agriculture.state.pa.us.
Certain parts of the deer carcass are considered "high-risk parts." These include the head (including brain, tonsils, eyes and any lymph nodes); spinal cord and backbone; spleen; skull plate with attached antlers, if visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present; cape, if visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present; upper canine teeth, if root structure or other soft tissue is present; any object or article containing visible brain or spinal cord tissue; unfinished taxidermy mounts; and brain-tanned hides. Neither whole deer nor any high-risk parts can be removed from the DMA. The meat from harvested deer may be removed from the DMA, so long as it does not contain any high-risk parts. Hunters who hunt in the DMA but live outside of it should have a plan to take care of any deer harvested and properly dispose of all high-risk parts within the DMA.
A list of cooperating meat processors and taxidermists for the DMA is available on the Game Commission website. Several of these are located just outside the official boundaries of the DMA, but hunters will be permitted to deliver their deer to them. These businesses will ensure all parts of any deer carcass will be disposed of properly. Hunters who process their own deer should include any high-risk parts with their normal trash collection or at dumpsters that will be located at two locations within the DMA. One of these will be at State Game Land 147 on 128 Seldom Seen Road, Martinsburg and the other at State Game Land 41 on 372 Replogle School Road, New Enterprise.
The Game Commission advises hunters not to shoot any deer that appears sick and to report such animals to the nearest Game Commission regional office.
And to close with some upbeat news, local shotgun enthusiasts will be interested to know that the Hollidaysburg Sportsmen's Club will be holding their club championship on Oct. 13, 2013 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event consists of 25 targets each in sporting clays, trap, skeet and five stand. Other regular club events include sporting clays on the second Sunday of every month at a cost of 50 targets for $10.
Five stand shoots are held on the fourth Sunday of the month at a cost of $5 per round. For more information check the club's website, www.hollidaysburgsportsmensclub.com.