While many people are marking their calendars with Thanksgiving, Christmas and other holiday events, local hunters are counting down the days for other important dates.
The holiday season for hunters began Oct. 1 with archery season. Wednesday morning, hunters will head for the woods for the next big holiday: Firearms season. While Christmas decorations are being put up inside, hunters will be outdoors Dec. 1 when archery season resumes and the muzzleloading season begins.
But the hunting holiday season is going to look different this year. After hunters shoot their prized deer, they will have to take their animal to a Michigan Department of Natural Resource (DNR) checkpoint to begin checking the deer for chronic wasting disease (CWD).
After the deer is scanned by the DNR, it goes to a taxidermist, who removes a sample to send to the disease lab to determine the deer’s age as well as if it is positive for tuberculosis or CWD.
“What (the DNR) is going to do is they’ll give you the head and should be putting a tag on the antlers,” explained Tim Lindsey, owner of Lindsey’s Outdoor Preservations in Lakeview. “They’ll tag the coordinates with all the hunter’s information. Then, the hunter gets a sample pulled.”
Lindsey is one of six local taxidermists certified to take samples and send them to be tested by the Michigan State University diagnostic lab. The process only takes five to 10 minutes.
Lindsey, or another taxidermist, cuts into the deer’s neck with a small blade, removes two lymph nodes, then saws off the bottom. All samples go into a sealed gallon-sized bag with a tag containing the hunter’s information along with a note about which taxidermist examined it. The bagged samples stay in the freezer until Lindsey returns to the DNR checkpoint.
From there, Lindsey takes a load of samples to a DNR checkpoint where they are sent to the diagnostic lab in Lansing. The whole process can take five to seven days.
So far, Lindsey guesses he’s removed samples from more than 70 deer, and he hasn’t seen one that tested positive for CWD.
Removing samples and hopefully helping track and monitor what deer populations might be affected by CWD is a way for Lindsey to help his fellow hunters and ensure there are deer for future generations to hunt and enjoy.
“There is no way to stop CWD right now. All we can do is keep track of where it is at,” he said. “It stinks that in those areas that the positive tests were they’re going to thin the herd down big time.”
Lindsey said testing doesn’t eliminate the opportunity to have a buck mounted. Doing a European mount, which only includes the buck’s skull and antlers, is easy because the jaw is removed anyway. For a shoulder mount, the process is a bit more complicated. Hunters can also keep their antlers from a buck.
“The customer is going to have to bring the whole head, with the inner cap cut off,” Lindsey said. “Then, it will be bagged up and send it down to the disease lab. Then, they’ll pull the specimen out.”
Lindsey doesn’t charge to take samples because he wants to help out his fellow hunters and do what he can to protect the deer herd. Other taxidermists providing the same service are charging and Lindsey said he might charge a “nominal fee” if he begins to get overloaded with work once firearm season begins.
“I don’t feel like it’s a nuisance,” he said. “I like hearing the hunting stories. I’ve had three dozen give or take asking if I charge for the sample. Within a day or two, they say to just do the European (mount).”
While European mounts don’t generate the most income for Lindsey, the extra business more than covers the cost of the blades, gloves and bleach. The biggest cost of doing the samples is the hunting time it takes away from Lindsey, but he gets the opportunity to hear many more hunting stories.
Lindsey isn’t the only local business owner hearing from hunters.
“We probably get a call every day about where are drop-off centers, what about if they get a big buck, what are the local butcher places doing,” summarized Sherie Bean, co-owner of Twin Ponds Sports Shop in Stanton.
The possibility of CWD hasn’t prevented many hunters from participating in deer season, but Bean has heard of a few people who aren’t going to hunt this year because of CWD.
Nate Kuenzer, manager and founder of Goldstar Outdoors in Edmore, said he’s only known of one person who decided not to hunt this year. However, that doesn’t mean hunters, including Kuenzer, aren’t concerned about the implications of the disease.
“Hunters are concerned as to what will happen to hunting whitetails as they know it and concerned for the herd,” he said. “I have only heard one person say they will not hunt or consume deer anymore out of fear of the disease. Knowledge is power.”
The disease hasn’t had much of an affect on business thus far, but Bean expects more resistance next year once hunters are no longer to bait, effective Jan. 2.
While not everyone may agree with the DNR’s new regulations, Lindsey said it’s ultimately for the best.
“CWD is Mother Nature’s way of thinning the herd out,” he said. “We are on the top of the pyramid. We need to put things in check and make sure our habitat is capable of handling the species.”
Hunters with questions are encouraged to visit the “Chronic Wasting Disease” section at www.michigan.gov/emergingdiseases online for more information.
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