This story originally appeared on Texas Public Radio.
For hunters like Tom Buckley deer hunting is a tradition passed down from one generation to another, and this week, it’s been all about preparing for the hunt. As he confidently pitches 50-pound bags of deer corn in the bed of his faded pickup in Cedar Park, Buckley explains why he isn’t concerned about the possibility that Chronic Wasting Disease, or CWD, has moved from deer breeding farms into the state’s wild white-tail deer population.
“All that’s affecting is just the ones by the people that are raising them, I haven’t heard anything out here in the country about it,” Buckley says.
Texas Parks and Wildlife says it’s seen a 11 percent drop in the purchase of hunting licenses this year – that represents just over a $1 million decrease in annual revenue. The agency’s Steve Lightfoot doesn’t believe Chronic Wasting Disease is a factor. Deer hunting season is beginning later this year than it has in the past.
“Last year deer season started November 1, so when you hit Halloween everyone buys their license before they go hunting, that’s where we typically see a spike. This year deer season starts Nov. 7 so we anticipate that spike going to come up here any day now,” Lightfoot says.
There’s no question the disease is on a lot of hunters’ minds.
So far, the four deer that have tested positive for the disease came from a high-fenced deer breeder facility. Overall Texas Parks and Wildlife has killed and tested 320 deer since this summer when the agency identified the wasting disease in a buck and three other deer from the Texas Mountain Ranch in Medina County.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission unanimously approved an emergency order that restricts deer breeders like Dave Greiner with the Perfect 10 Ranch in Junction. He’s barred from transporting or selling his deer unless he’s had 50 percent of them tested for the disease. Current methods for doing that require the animal be killed first, and that’s been costly for Greiner and others. Thursday, commissioners voted to extend those rules into February.
“There a lot of concern out there about CWD and a lot of it is unfounded and there’s a lot of over-reaction,” Greiner says. He’s lost of a lot of money and doesn’t think he’ll recoup it.
“We didn’t sell the bucks like we normally would. A lot of people are concerned about going ahead and having to test deer, so a lot of them elected not to release deer this year. It’s again overblown crap from a bunch of guys that No. 1, don’t like deer breeders and they are going to shoot themselves in the foot,” Greiner says.
On the other hand, Carl Fink and his group of hunting buddies think Texas Park and Wildlife is doing exactly what it should to limit deer in the wild from being exposed to Chronic Wasting Disease.
“It’s very important to keep it out of the wild population if at all possible, we have no problem with controlling it in pen-raised situations, possibly they should do more,” Fink says.
State officials have asked hunters to voluntarily submit the heads of the deer they shoot to the Texas Parks and Wildlife, who will test for the presence of Chronic Wasting Disease. Fink says if he bags a buck he plans to do that, so the state can get a better handle on how to keep the deer wasting disease from spreading.