Don Mallicoat

Hemorrhagic disease in WNC

By Don Mallicoat –

The NC WRC recently held a public hearing about the outbreak of hemorrhagic disease in deer in the mountains. The problem is they held it in Wilkes County and focused on the outbreak in the northwestern counties. Well guess what, we’ve got it going pretty good here in the western counties and it’s not getting much publicity. In fact none; at least not in the local press. I’ve talked with a couple of WRC enforcement officers and they say it’s pretty bad. One hunter I talked with said he is seeing half the number of deer on his game cameras that he saw last year. So what is hemorrhagic disease and how does it affect hunting?

The disease is carried from deer to deer by a tiny midge fly. It is not always fatal to deer but there is a high mortality rate. Affected deer develop lesions and swelling in the tongue, lungs, neck and eyelids. Because of these symptoms, primarily the swollen tongue, many deer are found dead near streams or small ponds looking for water. The disease is not passed to humans so killing and eating a diseased deer will not hurt you. In some cases, depending on severity of the outbreak, up to fifty percent of a deer population can be affected by the disease.

If you are interested in more information the NC WRC has a presentation on their website at Click on the Hemorrhagic Disease 2012 link in the upper right hand Related Links box. That same presentation can be found in video on YouTube. What this means is that there may be slim pickings here in the mountains for deer hunters due to deer herd mortality. It also means the next few seasons may be similar while the deer herd repopulates.

We are getting into the start of serious gun hunting season. Muzzle loader deer season started this past Monday and will continue through Saturday, October 13. Then we start up with grouse and squirrel season on October 15th along with the second part of archery deer season. The early goose season ended September 29th and the first split of the dove season ends this coming Monday on October 8th.

With all of these seasons opening up first time hunters 16 and over need to remember that a Hunter Safety class is required for first time license purchasers in the state. North Carolina does honor other states’ Hunter Safety course but a certificate number is required when obtaining a license. There are some upcoming Hunter Safety Classes that will get you certified before the deer gun season starts and small game season gets into full swing.

The first one is October 16 – 18 (Tuesday to Thursday) at the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education. It is from 6 – 9:30 p.m. all three evenings. Half of the 25 seats were remaining as of this writing. The next class here locally will be October 22 – 24 in Blackwell Hall on the campus of Mars Hill College in Madison County. Times are the same. All registration is done online now. If you need to attend one of these classes go to the Commission website at and click on the Hunter Education link on the right.

Shortly after this paper goes out for distribution I will be on my way to North Dakota for what I refer to as my “bucket list” hunt. A local friend who spends his summer and autumn in the prairie pothole region of North Dakota invited some friends and me up for a duck hunt. If you are not familiar, this is where they breed. That translates to a whole lot of ducks. In fact, there are so many ducks we will probably be finished by 9 a.m. and have time the rest of the day to hunt pheasant, Hungarian partridge, and sharptail grouse the rest of the day.

I’ve never been a duck hunter but always wanted to try it. If this was an outfitter hunt with lodge accommodations and such I could never afford it. Nope, this is Art and his friend taking me and some friends out for a lifetime experience. I am truly excited. Got me a new Beretta A400 Xtreme in Max 4 camo to perform the task along with some Max 4 camo clothing to hide me in the fields. Oh yeah, we’ve got 24 hours of driving to practice duck calls. That should be interesting. A report on the trip when it’s complete

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