Not just CWD: Hunters learning about dangers of EHD

Mention EHD to hunters and most will just stare blankly. CWD they know but EHD?

Then when you say it stands for Epizootic Hemorrhaghic Disease it sounds like a joke. What kind of name is that?

It’s a serious disease going through the deer herd this year in certain parts of the state. My deer hunting buddy in Armstrong County, Joanie Haidle, found a gaunt, dead deer in one of the big ponds on her land earlier this summer. Then, over the summer, 14 dead deer, suspected of being afflicted with EHD, were found on land nearby hers.

Last week, as Joanie was returning home from town, she spotted a deer crossing a small creek that looked very sick to her. If you go on her Facebook page, she has posted a picture of it there.

This particular disease is caused by midges, tiny little biting insects. When the weather turns cold and the first frost happens, these midges will die off and the disease will slow. But with the warm weather lasting longer than usual this fall, who knows when this will end? Deer afflicted with EHD usually dies with 10 days or so of the bite and it doesn’t do the long-term damage that CWD does.

As for CWD the Game Commission is planning to install drop boxes where hunters can drop off their deer heads. These boxes should be in place by now. Hunters will receive the results of the testing on their deer a week or so after the testing.

Archery hunters are not enjoying this warm weather much. The rut, which is prime time for archery hunting usually begins about the first of November. Until then, hunters are staking out feeding areas and deer travel routes to try to intercept a deer, which do not like to move much before dark. Hunting the rut runs simultaneously with fall turkey season so these two types of hunters often run into each other. Most days, a lot of hunters struggle with whether they ant to take the shotgun for turkeys or the bow for deer.

And you guessed it! Which ever one the hunters decides to take, it is the other one that almost runs him over. Last year, however, it worked out perfectly for Joanie. She argued with herself as to which she wanted to hunt one day, and she chose right because she was able to bag an 11-point buck that day.

Turkeys don’t care much about the weather, they are out foraging no matter what, but deer do not like to move about much in the heat since they are getting their winter coats so they lie up until the cool of the evening.

But these warm days of fall are gorgeous in the woods and one can indulge their esthetic side. So far the leaves seem reluctant to show much color but all the animals, squirrels, bears, chipmunks and groundhogs are busy trying to ingest every calorie available to tide them over the long winter ahead. Birds are migrating and they gather in big flocks and sometimes swoosh over your head like a great wind. Leaves ratttle all day long and you never know what is out there digging and scraping. Geese are flying south and I maintain that there is hardly a sound wilder than a flock of migrating geese. Autumn is a busy, noisy time in the forest.

Mincing around the woods now, looking for rubs and early scrapes made by bucks, scratchings made by turkeys, long, vertical scrapes next to logs made by bears, are all things a hunter is looking for out there. The size of a scrape reveals if the buck that made it is a dominant buck or an upstart. The size of a rub reveals how large the antlers are on the buck that made them.

The size and shape of turkey scratchings tell a hunter whether a hen and her young made them or are they the large, sparsely spaced scratches of a mature longbeard. A hunter keeps his information close to the vest and usually forms his hunting plan around them when the appropriate season arrives.

Is there a good mast crop? Wild grapes? Cornfields? All are vivid clues as to where his quarry is and will be later. There are guns to be cleaned and boots to be oiled and conditioned now. I know that many hunters spray scent killer on their clothes vigorously but forget that gun oil and boot conditioner reek to high heaven and will warn every animal within a half mile if we wait until the night before the season opener to apply those smelly things. I go so far as to recommend scentless laundry detergent, shampoo and mouth wash.