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With hunting here, keep CWD in mind

The continued presence of Chronic Wasting Disease in the deer population is no doubt inflicting some measure of unease in what the Pennsylvania Game Commission labels as the “regular firearms season” that is beginning this weekend.

This is only the second year in more than half a century that Pennsylvania’s firearms deer season is opening on a Saturday, last year being the first.

Nothing occurred in the woods during 2019’s earlier start that suggested that the state should return to opening the season on the Monday after Thanksgiving, as was the case for more than 50 years.

However, a front-page Mirror article on Jan. 22 reported on sporting goods businesses that were blaming the earlier start of the season for what they described as crippling losses of sales.

Still, the schedule currently in effect offers hunters who cannot be away from their jobs on a weekday the opportunity to enjoy the first-day experience in which other hunters delight.

Also, young people unable to hunt on a Monday opening day, for education reasons or whatever, appreciate the opportunity that the revised starting schedule offers.

The situation is another example of how a decision beneficial on one front can be detrimental on another.

For the benefit of anyone who might not be “up to speed” regarding Chronic Wasting Disease, CWD is a disease that affects the nervous system of infected deer. The disease can be fatal, and there currently is no vaccine, treatment or cure available for it.

What is especially troubling regarding the disease is that an infected deer might not exhibit visible symptoms for more than a year, possibly passing the disease to many more deer before it dies. As the Mirror noted in an editorial on Nov. 30, 2019, the Game Commission believes it takes, on average, 18 to 24 months for infected deer to show CWD symptoms.

As the disease progresses, infected animals might exhibit a lowered head and/or lowered ears, wasting or thinning, a rough coat, excessive drooling, or abnormal behavior.

There is no conclusive evidence about whether the disease can be transmitted to humans, but some people believe that that possibility is not out of the question.

Although deer hunting currently is not without issues dogging it, it cannot be argued that this annual outdoors ritual does not advance appreciation of the environment and wildlife’s place in it.

That is true both for adults as well as for young people participating in their first hunt.

For many young people, the experience of hunting with their father, mother or both will be branded into their memory for the rest of their lives. The advice to hunters young and old, going forward, is obvious: Enjoy the hunt but make safety your first priority. Know what is between you and a target. Likewise, try to be cognizant of what is around you, including other hunters who might be pointing their rifle at the same target.

For many families struggling as the result of COVID-19’s dire economic impact, having deer meat will be more important this year than what it has been in any prior year.

Chronic Wasting Disease is an important concern that hunters must acknowledge. However, it is laudable that responsible sportsmen like most here are trying to help the Game Commission make the right decisions, rather than hasty ones that might be unnecessarily detrimental to the sport.

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