Colorado Mule Deer Hunt and CWD Testing | MAC Outdoors Podcast 75

As our early seasons are coming to a close and the weather is showing definite signs of fall we’re looking toward additional big game hunts. Last year, Lea and I hunted together for deer during one of the rifle seasons. One cool, foggy morning she tagged a beautiful mule deer buck.

Due to circumstances that you wouldn’t think happens to experienced hunters Lea ended up using my rifle, and I ended up as a bystander along for the hunt. (Let me know in the comments if you want me to tell you about how we came to this scenario) I spotted and ranged animals for my daughter as she carried my Tikka T3X .270WIN rifle.

Lea carrying the Tikka T3x Lite Roughtech Hunting Rifle

Fog hung in the air across the valley, and a chill nipped through our layers of clothes. Although sunrise came a couple of hours ago, the view across the valley became better through good glass. I peered through my Swarovski Optik SLC 10×42 binoculars, searching for movement through the fog and trees.

As the fog lifted and the air began to warm (slightly) we heard movement through the trees. Moments later a small group of cow elk emerged. Lea and I smiled as we watched the beautiful ladies. The thick-furred beasts mewed at one another and pranced across the opening before us, stopping occasionally for a bite of dewy grass, and at times turning to mock and tussle one another. Soon, they disappeared into the opposing stand of timber.

Lea and I were left to our crisp cool morning and looked at the clearing sitting there still and silent as though no animals had just happened by. We huddled down into our layers of clothing and continued to look for new movements, hoping to catch the movement of an antlered deer.

That’s when it happened. I glimpsed a movement up the valley and raised my binoculars for a better look. There they were–two mule deer bucks emerged from the timber and began feeding across the clearing. I tapped Lea and discretely motioned to where I saw the deer, but she already had her eyes on them. I took another look and told her that they’re both mature deer.

Lea shouldered her rifle and put the crosshairs on the lead buck. Topped with a Steiner GS3 4-20x50mm scope, the flat-shooting .270 is a proficient rifle. She let me know which buck she intended to take and waited for my word that I had my “eyes” on him. Once I gave confirmation, she touched off a shot. The crack broke the silence of the morning and I watched through my binoculars as the bullet hit its mark. The deer cratered and our morning chill departed.

Many hunters look to the deeds required after a shot as “the hard work,” but it seems that Lea and I look to that time as a time of reflectance and reward. This hunt wasn’t one of the most difficult but it was work, and now it was time to take care of our reward.

The two of us marched up the valley and Lea beamed as she lay her hands on a majestic beast. We paid our respects, gave thanks, and we took remembrance photos. After that, the knives came out and we began to field dress the deer, which we would later process in the kitchen at the house and use for many healthy meals.

Lea and I pose for a memory shot with her mule deer.

While we dressed out the deer, we remembered that Colorado Parks and Wildlife requires the head be brought in for testing. The field tech would take a lymph node from the base of the buck’s skull and it would be sent off to a lab for Chronic Wasting Disease testing. (learn more about CWD below)

A technical removes the lymph nodes from a mule deer buck.

The story serves as a reminder not only about the CWD test but also about the hunt. Do you remember and embrace the details of your quests?–The good, the bad, the magnificent and ordinary scenes–Do they make a mark in your mind? I hope you’ll remember to check and see if there is a CWD test requirement in the are where you’ll be hunting this year. I also hope you remember to savor the details of your outdoor experience.

It’s always an adventure.

Deer and elk hunters can keep an eye on mailbox for chronic wasting disease mandatory testing letter

DENVER –  Colorado Parks and Wildlife has selected specific deer and elk hunts for mandatory chronic wasting disease testing in 2021 to inform how and where to fight the spread of CWD.

Beginning in early October, CPW will be sending letters to Colorado rifle season hunters who have been selected for mandatory CWD testing. CPW will require mandatory submission of CWD test samples (heads) from all elk and deer harvested during rifle seasons from specific hunts to better evaluate the infection levels of CWD in herds. There will be no charge for mandatory testing. Find the hunt codes selected for mandatory testing of deer on pages 22–32 and elk on pages 41–52 of the 2021 Colorado Big Game Brochure.

CWD testing locations

A complete list of CWD testing submission sites along with hours and locations can be found here: CWD Testing and Submission Information. CPW is continuing the use of temporary CWD submission sites to assist those who are hunting in remote locations

Where has CWD been found?

The results of mandatory testing are yielding new insights into varying infection levels in deer herds throughout Colorado. As of May 2021, CWD has been detected in 40 of 54 deer herds, 16 of 43 elk herds, and 2 of 9 moose herds. The estimated proportion of sampled animals that are infected (or disease “prevalence”) appears to be rising in many Colorado herds. Click here to read the 2020 Chronic Wasting Disease Annual Report.

Testing in 2020

  • 32 deer herds were included in mandatory testing
  • Over 7,500 samples tested statewide (includes all species)
  • CWD disease prevalence exceeds the 5% in 22 deer herds
  • 9 herds have disease prevalence between 5-10%, 6 herds have disease prevalence between 10-20%, and 7 herds have disease prevalence that exceeds 20%. When disease prevalence is 20%, it means 1 out of 5 adult males are infected
  • Data collected from mandatory testing shows disease prevalence is 2-3 times higher in male deer than female deer

What is CPW doing to address CWD?

CPW is working to ensure long-term health of deer, elk and moose herds. Over time, this means minimizing the number of animals that get infected and die from this disease. To date, management actions have been prescribed for 27 deer herds that intend to reduce infection levels to below 5%. More information about our plan to manage CWD is available in the Colorado Chronic Wasting Disease Response Plan.

What are the health risks to humans?

CWD is a prion disease that affects Colorado’s deer, elk and moose. The disease course generally lasts 2 – 3 years and is always fatal. Although there has been no evidence that CWD has yet been transmitted to humans, the Center for Disease Control, along with CPW, recommend that hunters not eat the meat of a CWD-infected animal.

More information about CWD is available on CPW’s website.

More information on prion diseases is available on CDPHE’s website

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Mia Anstine is an outdoor writer, licensed outfitter, hunting guide, life coach, keynote speaker, and a range safety officer, firearms instructor, and archery instructor. She is the founder of MAC Outdoors and Host of the MAC Outdoors Podcast. 

Mia Anstine strives to encourage others to outdoors, hunt, fish, shoot, and survive life with others in a positive way.

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Mia Anstine
MAC Outdoors LLC
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Ignacio, CO 81137-0031

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