Author: Cassie Gasaway
Lindsay Thomas, the National Deer Association’s chief communications officer, spoke to archery and bowhunting press and media members at the 2022 ATA Trade Show about the importance of protecting the industry’s most vital asset: whitetails. Although the presentation was geared toward those with a platform, Thomas’ message is applicable for all ATA members.
“We need the industry and media’s help to educate hunters and encourage them to join the fight against chronic wasting disease,” he said.
Lindsay Thomas discussed CWD with attendees at the Media Summit at the 2022 ATA Trade Show. Photo Credit: ATA
Thomas explained that whitetails are the reason everyone in the bowhunting industry thrives. For example, the NDA 2020 Deer Report found that 3.1 million antlered bucks were killed nationwide during the 2019-2020 hunting season, alongside 3.3 million antlerless deer, for a total of 6.4 million deer taken last year. According to Thomas and NDA research, American hunters killed twice the population of mule deer and six times the population of elk in whitetails alone.
“(Your business) might focus on mule deer, waterfowl, turkeys or whatever, but the gear you carry, the companies that sponsor you, the ATA Show and many conservation organizations, it all rides on the back of whitetails,” he said.
Thomas shared the statistics not to diminish the impact of other species but to point out the importance of white-tailed deer as a resource. “If we didn’t have whitetails, all of us would be in big trouble,” he said.
That’s why chronic wasting disease is so concerning. CWD is a contagious neurological disease that slowly kills every deer, elk or other cervid it infects. It poses a serious threat to deer populations, and therefore, it also threatens hunter success and the livelihood of the industry.
“CWD is eating the floor from up under the whitetail population,” Thomas said. “It’s an added mortality source that makes it difficult to continue to support hunting as a mortality source. If we lose more deer to CWD, the deer populations won’t be able to continue to support hunter harvests like it does, which isn’t good for anyone.”
Fortunately, scientists are working to find a solution. All we have to do is buy time for them to figure it out.
“We have to stop the spread and prevent it from spreading long enough for science to work,” he said. “Media members and the industry must set the example and lead the way when it comes to stopping the disease from moving into new areas.”
To keep CWD contained long enough to find a solution, Thomas encourages industry members, especially those in the spotlight, to follow these three simple rules.
NDA has partnered with OnX to create a mobile app that shows you active CWD zones in your state. Photo Credit: OnX
1. Know whether the area you’re hunting has CWD.
Currently, CWD has been found in 28 states. Find out if the disease is in your area or was found in an area you’re traveling to. Thomas said the NDA partnered with OnX to create a CWD-layer map in the app that shows users which states, zones and counties have CWD-infected deer. The app also links to regulations that outline procedures for shooting a deer in the area.
2. Follow the rules and regulations for the area you’re hunting, especially those that pertain to transporting and disposing of deer carcasses.
All states have carcass importation bans, meaning it’s illegal to transport an entire deer carcass across a state line. Because of CWD, some states started implementing rules regarding the transportation of a deer carcass over county lines. Whether it’s the law or not, you’re never supposed to leave a CWD area with a deer carcass. Instead, check the rules in your area to learn how to properly handle deer carcasses. If you have questions, contact your state wildlife agency or a conservation officer to ensure you understand the rules.
3. Get your deer tested for CWD.
If you’re hunting a CWD area, get your harvest tested. It’s easy and typically free. Simply drop off the deer head in a designated, refrigerated cooler where a biologist will test the animal and send you an email with the results. Getting your harvest tested helps state wildlife agencies monitor the disease and track the location of positive cases. Plus, it’s helpful for you because, although there’s no evidence of CWD affecting humans, experts recommend against eating the meat of an infected animal. Don’t put yourself at risk. If your deer tests positive, you can bury the meat or bring it to a CWD carcass drop-off location to safely dispose of it. Your state agency can also provide information on appropriate CWD testing procedures and where to submit samples.
“All these things are easy to do,” Thomas said. “I’m asking you to lead by example so others follow. We need all hunters to understand these steps to help protect the whitetail resource.”
If ATA members and the media follow these steps and share them with others, we can make a difference. It’s as simple as telling people, “There is a fight against CWD. You can get involved. Here’s how.”
For more information about CWD, please visit the NDA’s Chronic Wasting Disease Resource Center.