Chronic wasting disease: The most important question

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has become a hot topic within the deer hunting community in recent months and especially in Illinois. Earlier this year Senate bill SB-2493 was introduced which would make it legal to supplemental feed wild deer in Illinois outside of hunting season on private lands only. After a series of changes the bill passed both the house and senate and arrived on Governor Rauners desk on July 27. He has 60 days to sign this legislation but word is he will not do so. The rally-cry of those opposing the legislation is that feeding deer will spread CWD. While I disagree with this premise, I do respect those who care enough about the Illinois deer herd that they bought into this idea.

The process of pushing/following this bill through the legislative process has been both interesting and eye-opening for me on many levels. One thing that was repeated to me often by numerous folks connected in various way to either IDNR or the legislative process is that IDNR Director Wayne Rosenthall is a good man but one whose hands are tied by the deep-state politics of Illinois.

The most interesting revelation came in a conversation with a legislator who told me, “The most disgusting thing about my meetings with DNR on this issue is that they seem more concerned that supplemental feeding would hinder the ability of their sharp-shooters to do their jobs than they were about the Illinois deer herd!” Yes, as hard as it is to believe, that statement was actually made by an Illinois legislator. For the record I am willing to take a lie-detector test to prove this statement was actually made to me by a legislator.

When it comes to CWD there are essentially two views on this issue; one group believes that CWD can/will devastate deer herds and possibly spread the disease to humans while the other side thinks the whole CWD scare is a farce that has been overstated for the past 2 decades. I personally fall into the latter category based on what I have seen and read over the last 20 years. So with my position on CWD clear, I am going to pose a question that every deer hunter in North America really needs to ask themselves right now, before the 2018 hunting season even starts.

If you see a deer that is obviously in poor health and one that you believe “could” have CWD, what are you going to do?Shoot it? Will you call your state game agency or the local game warden? Walk away and keep your mouth shut? This is a question that you really need to consider now, before that day comes. It may be that your answer will depend on the state you are hunting and how that state deals with CWD positive deer. Sometimes the “cure” is worse than the illness.

In my home state of Illinois if a hunter would find and report a sick deer that is determined to indeed have CWD, that hunter would have literally ended deer hunting in that area for many years. DNR sharp-shooters would come in and do everything possible to totally wipe out every last living deer within a several mile radius of where the CWD infected deer was found. This would include using bait piles and shooting deer at night with high-powered rifles; whatever it takes to kill them all.

If you think I am exaggerating you need to talk to some deer hunters who live and hunt in the northern Illinois counties where CWD has been found. A single deer testing positive for CWD means that deer hunting in that area will be drastically changed forever, not because of what CWD does to the herd but because of how IDNR reacts to it.

Let’s look at a couple of facts that nobody on either side of this issue disputes. Fact 1 – CWD exists to a greater degree than we know. CWD has been found in many states but likely exists in others but just hasn’t been confirmed yet. Fact 2 – CWD is spreading. There is absolutely nothing we can do to stop the spread of CWD. The social behavior of whitetails will do more to spread CWD than anything man can do to stop or slow it.

The over $100,000,000 of tax-payer dollars that have been spent to stop the spread of CWD across the country have not worked at all. In Illinois where some of the most drastic measures have been implemented to stop the spread of CWD, the disease has still spread noticeably. Using figures from IDNRs own website, CWD spread to 425% more counties during the 13-year period from 2003 to 2016. As CWD has spread the same measures to stop it have continued unsuccessfully. Are we going to eventually get to the point where we try to eradicate deer across the entire state? Seriously! Where does it end?

My view on CWD and how it is being handled is a result of observing and digesting what has happened over the past 20 years and by comparing what we the public have been told and what has actually transpired. My view would absolutely be completely different if either of two things had ever proved accurate; if CWD proved to jump the species barrier and infect humans or if CWD had proven to be the devastating disease that wipes out deer herds. Neither of these things has happened and what’s more, there is no evidence to suggest either of those things ever will happen.

When it comes right down to it, the 2 sides on the CWD issue basically disagree on one premise; one side wants to simply “slow down” the inevitable spread of the disease while the other wants to let nature takes its course. This may seem rather simple but I think all sides realize that CWD is spreading and we can’t stop it so really it all boils down to the idea of spending untold tax-payer dollars to slow it down (never stopping it).

So we come back to my original question; If you find a sick deer, what is your response going to be? You darn well better realize that how you answer that question could have a very big impact on a lot of people for many years. Are you ready to see sharp-shooters armed with high-powered rifles killing every possible deer they can in your area? Are you ready to find new hunting ground? If you are a landowner, are you ready for the day when you no longer see deer on your property? As you sit in your treestand this season you really need to think long and hard about this most important question concerning CWD. As you do consider the facts that nobody is debating – CWD is here and it is spreading and there is nothing we can do to stop it.

I have thought long and hard about the question that I have posed here. In fact I answered the question for myself years ago. If I were ever to discover a deer that I thought was possibly infected with CWD I would never say a word to anyone. Nor will I voluntarily allow any deer that I harvest to be tested for CWD. Until that day dawns when IDNR comes up with a better plan than using sharp-shooters with rifles sitting over bait piles to kill every single deer they possibly can, I won’t be changing my answer to this important question. If you give the slightest damn about the deer herd in your hunting area you better consider taking the very same approach.

I just learned that IDNR is soon going on a multi-city propaganda campaign to inform the public about CWD. Maybe another question we need to be asking is “are these meetings to inform the public about CWD or as the legislator suggested to me, is it a campaign to sway public perception to keep the sharp-shooters employed in Illinois?”

Note – There is a lot of “scientific studies” being promoted to bolster both sides of the CWD debate. Much of it is little more than biased propaganda developed to support a predetermined side of the issue. Here is a link to the very best CWD document I have found which simply states the facts about CWD –

Note – In the near future I will be releasing my most pointed column ever revealing the corruption within IDNR. You won’t want to miss it. Be sure to “like” my facebook page “Don Higgins/Higgins Outdoors” to read these blogs as they are posted.


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