Facts About Deer Hunting in 2020

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Deer hunting doesn’t look like what it did 20 or 30 years ago. Things have changed. That had never been more apparent when I scanned through the Quality Deer Management Association’s 2020 Whitetail Report. Here are a few facts about deer hunting in 2020. Some good and some bad.

Not all states’ legal shooting hours begin a half hour before sunrise.

Think every state in America has the same legal shooting start time of ½ hour before sunrise? If you said yes, you’re wrong. In South Carolina, you can shoot a deer 1 hour before sunrise. That’s nuts. With a full moon, you could literally kill deer by moonlight. It’d feel downright illegal, and would be everywhere else in the nation.

New York breaks the mold, too. There, you can’t pull the trigger until sunrise. Arizona’s legal shooting times are limited to “daylight hours.” And if you ever travel to New Brunswick, don’t flip that safety off until 20 minutes before sunrise.

Hunter fatalities are trending downward.

Guns aren’t the most dangerous aspects of hunting. Treestand falls are, but the data shows the number of hunting-related fatalities are declining. A reduction in hunter numbers is likely a contributing factor, but we’ll take the reduced statistic, nonetheless. Broken down by region, the Southeast has the highest totals with 0.7 fatalities per 100,000 deer hunters. The Midwest comes in second with 0.6, Northeast third with 0.5, and West fourth with 0.4. Individual states with the highest number of fatalities per 100,000 deer hunters included Nebraska (1.5), West Virginia (2.1), Mississippi (2.1), Alabama (3.2) and South Dakota (4.4).

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Remember, always wear a safety harness and implement a safety line system. Don’t wait to strap on once you’re in the treestand. Instead, use a safety line to ensure you’re tethered from the time you start climbing the ladder until you climb back down again. Using this method keeps you safe even if the fall occurs while climbing up, stepping onto the treestand platform, while in the treestand, or when climbing back down.

Wild game processing regulations continue to increase.

As scary diseases — such as the prion-based Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) — continue to spread, meat processors are ever-increasingly dealing with stout regulations. More states are requiring the licensing and regulating of these. Today, one or both of these things are required in Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Arizona, Idaho, Oregon and Wyoming. More states continue to join their ranks.

“In addition, a major concern with CWD is that standard sanitizing methods fail to kill the prions that cause the illness,” QDMA says. “However, a recent study confirmed that household bleach can be used as a surface decontaminant on stainless steel surfaces (it failed to penetrate infected tissue), such as those found in processing facilities. For hunters who want to be cautious when handling potentially infected deer harvested in CWD management zones, the ability to neutralize stainless steel knives, saws and other equipment is one approach to reducing potential exposure.

Traveling across state lines with deer parts — even lower jaw bones — is heavily regulated.

Today, many hunters enjoy sending off teeth to determine the age of deer they kill. It’s fun, but also part of herd management for many hunters. Three states are still making it difficult to do that, though. Iowa and Florida permit it, but only from non-CWD areas. According to QDMA, Kentucky all out bans the importation of lower jaws. “Currently, 36 of 40 states (90%) and all provinces that responded to the survey allow the unrestricted transport of a lower jaw into their borders,” QDMA says. “Kentucky is the only location that completely prohibits it, Oregon only allows it on finished taxidermy work, and both Florida and Iowa only allow them from non-CWD areas.” That said, according to Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife (KDFWR), finished taxidermy skulls with clean teeth are permitted.

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Deer diseases continue spreading and flourishing.

We frequently cover Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD), Bluetongue Virus (BTV) and Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). However, there are several deer illnesses that often receive too little press.

The disease that grabs my attention most this year, though, is Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). It’s a very infectious (and usually fatal) disease that humans, horses and swine can contract. It’s known that deer can get it, too. “In 2019, EEE was discovered in white-tailed deer in Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island,” QDMA says. “As of December 17, 2019, the CDC had received reports of 38 confirmed cases of EEE, including 15 human deaths. Cases included: Alabama (1), Connecticut (4), Georgia (1), Indiana (1), Massachusetts (12), Michigan (10), North Carolina (1), New Jersey (4), Rhode Island (3), and Tennessee (1).”

And CWD is the Worst.

Sadly, CWD continues to creep across the landscape in almost every direction. It’s now in 26 states, two Canadian provinces and several other countries in Europe and Australia. There’s still no clear evidence that humans can contract CWD from cervids (deer, moose, elk and caribou). However, research hasn’t completely ruled it out, either. “CWD has also been shown to experimentally infect squirrel monkeys, pigs and laboratory mice that carry some human genes,” QDMA says. “There is currently conflicting evidence of potential infection (clinical, pathological, or biochemical) to primates closely related to humans (macaque monkeys) when they consume infected venison. In addition, CWD-positive deer are two to three times more likely to die of other causes and are considerably less active than deer that are negative, and adult does are 10 times more likely to be CWD-positive if they have a CWD-positive relative nearby.”

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That’s obviously a lot to take in in one helping, but it’s important for deer hunters to stay informed. The annual Whitetail Report is a wealth of knowledge and harbors much more information than discussed here. Download your own copy of it today.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>