With the midterm elections in the rear-view mirror and gun seasons going on across the country, politics are likely the last thing deer hunters want to talk about right now. However, the so-called “lame-duck session” might be one of the most important times for us as sportsmen.

This period, between the recent election and the new congress taking office, is when you’ll often see legislation get pushed forward. This happens as outgoing congressmen and women look to make the most of their remaining days in office, and others finally have the ability to vote freely without worry of reelection ramifications.

With this being the case, deer hunters have a unique opportunity over the next few weeks to make a difference on an issue that’s weighed heavily on the hunting community in recent years: Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). A recently introduced bill, the Chronic Wasting Disease Transmission in Cervidae Study Act, has the potential to help move the needle in the right direction in dealing with CWD, but it needs help making it to the legislative finish line.

If we speak up and let our voices be heard, we might be able to help make that happen before the end of the year.

Chronic Wasting Disease Study Act
CWD is one of the most pressing issues facing ungulates across the country today. Despite the naysaying and misinformation coming from some corners of the hunting world, deer biologists and professional managers across the board say CWD is a challenge we must face head-on.

What most in the whitetail world can agree on is that there are more questions than answers when it comes to dealing with this disease. Unfortunately, those answers are increasingly hard to come by as funding for CWD research has significantly declined in recent years, leading to new studies being put on the back-burner and no significant progress being made towards stopping or slowing the disease. This is where the CWD Study Act (S. 3644 in the Senate, H.R.6272 in the House) comes into play.

According to the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP), “The bill directs the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a study on how CWD is transmitted in wild, captive, and farmed deer in the United States. The goal would be to identify all factors that contribute to the spread of the disease and hone in on where deeper research is needed. The bill also calls for a review of the best practices and standards for managing CWD in both captive and wild deer, to result in a report of findings and recommendations.”

This is what the deer hunting community needs right now: research and answers.

Why Should We Support This?
Most of the controversy around CWD within the hunting community has stemmed from a belief that state agency actions have been overblown or misguided. If you fall into this camp, the CWD Study Act would be a win because it will help get state agencies the answers they need to properly readjust those management actions.

On the other hand, if you believe the Quality Deer Management Association, National Deer Alliance, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, National Wildlife Health Center, and the vast majority of biologists when they say that CWD is something we need to address,  then the CWD Study Act is a no-brainer. We need more information about how CWD spreads, the risks it poses humans, how to manage its presence, and much more. This bill, and its proposed study, would be a significant step in that direction.

The Upshot
CWD was just detected in two more deer in my home state of Michigan, making it present in nine counties, including one that I hunt in. As the disease continues its slow march across the state, I fear the day is coming when I’ll receive a positive test result from a deer I’ve killed.

What will I do then? Would I feed it to my 10-month old son, despite the Center for Disease Control’s recommendation not to eat CWD positive meat? Or, would I throw away all of the meat from an animal I just killed?

Both choices are heart-wrenching. And what if this scenario were to play out year after year? How would that impact my motivations to hunt? How would this impact whether my son would grow up to be a hunter?

The questions are endless.

This is why we need answers, and this is why we need to push the Chronic Wasting Disease Transmission in Cervidae Study Act (S. 3644 in the Senate, H.R.6272 in the House) to be passed into law.

We deer hunters have a unique opportunity during this lame duck session to make a difference in the fight to understand and manage CWD. I’d encourage you to take five minutes—right now—to send an email or place a phone call to your congressional representatives. Just ask them to support the CWD Study Act (S. 3644 in the Senate, H.R.6272 in the House). You can find contact info for your senators by clicking here, and your representatives by clicking here.

For more on CWD and the challenges it poses to deer and deer hunters, tune into one of the following podcasts we’ve produced on the issue.

Feature image by Matt Hansen