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DeerTrails: Follow safety during new season

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Safety during gun deer season is more than four firearm rules. Gun handling, tree stand harnessing, chronic wasting disease, and COVID-19 must all be dealt with to protect one another and the animal being pursued.

Many situations put the hunter in a position of protecting other hunters by making safe shots, by not spreading COVID-19 to others and now deer it’s been reported, and by not eating or gifting untested (CWD) deer to fellow hunters, landowners, and relatives.

By treating every gun as if it were loaded; by always pointing the gun’s muzzle in a safe direction; by being sure of your target and beyond; and keeping your finger out of the trigger guard until ready to shoot, a hunter is protecting themselves, other hunters, and the public.

Jon King, WDNR Administrative Warden (hunter education), says that by following these rules hunters are more likely to have a healthy and happy end to their season.

Chronic wasting disease is a deer disease but has similarities with other prion diseases so hunters are advised to not take chances. “Health organizations continue to remind hunters to not consume deer that have tested positive for CWD,” said Kevin Wallenfang, WDNR wildlife biologist at the CWD Processing Center in Poynette.

“Because this is a serious deer disease that is always fatal, we need to be concerned about its spread in the state and the impact it is having on deer populations,” he said.

“Self-processing adds another dimension,” said Amana Kamps, WDNR wildlife health officer. “There are certain tissues to avoid that contain more of the prions in infected deer. Cutting tools need to be specially cleaned and the discarded bones and flesh must be disposed of properly.”

Dr. Jeffery Pothof, UW Heath’s Chief Quality Officer, emergency medicine physician, and a deer hunter, is encouraged by what’s available to deer hunters this year to remain safer from COVID-19.

“Hunting with 10 or fewer others could be done much more safely this year compared to 2020,” Pothof said. “There is still some risk in some cases, however.”

If hunting and staying with a group, all of whom are unvaccinated, expect to get COVID-19. The “lone wolf” hunter is much better off and is fairly safe.

We’re better off because many hunters have been vaccinated and some are getting booster shots already. Hanging out in relatively small groups is generally a low risk, Pothof said.

Returning unvaccinated hunters and the Delta COVID-19 variant are still out there.

If going off to camp a hunter might consider getting a negative test before leaving home.

Upon coming home from deer camp, watch for symptoms and if they show, get tested immediately, and isolate if necessary until there’s negative test.

“Eat well; you can drink a little but not too much. A heart attack or a fall from a tree stand can leave someone paralyzed, or worse. No one should be up in a tree stand without a safety harness,” Pothof said.

Think of the other person. We can put them in danger, too, if we don’t follow the rules and practice common sense with guns, CWD and COVID-19.

Jerry Davis writes daily DeerTrails 11 times during the nine-day, gun deer season. This is the first column. Reach out to him at or (608) 924-1112.


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