In the last two weeks I have been getting tagged daily in social-media posts regarding CWD. It seems that many in the hunting community have recognized and appreciate my outspoken position on this topic. This is probably due to the fact that very few within the hunting industry will speak out about the way some states are dealing with CWD; Ted Nugent and Jay Gregory being a couple of notable exceptions.
Last September I wrote a blog regarding CWD in which I encouraged hunters in my home state of Illinois to think long and hard before reporting a deer they suspect may have CWD. The reason for this is not that I don’t care about CWD but my issue is that in Illinois the “cure” is far worse than the “ailment”. When a case of CWD is found, sharp-shooters using high-powered rifles sit over bait piles at night in an attempt to kill every deer within a 2 mile radius of the location. This goes on for 5 years. In my opinion this is not acceptable with what is known about CWD. That blog post did not go unnoticed by the hunting community including those who have a completely different view than I do on CWD.
There are those who choose to ignore the facts and instead try to discredit me by saying that I have skin in the game. As co-owner of a company that sells deer mineral and other deer nutrition products, my critics claim that I am speaking out for financial reasons. Anyone who knows me well knows that money does not dictate my stance on any issue. If it did, I wouldn’t be writing this but instead would sit quietly in the shadows working to make sales as most other company owners are doing while pretty much ignoring the CWD issue. Let me give you two “real world” examples of proof that my critics are totally wrong.
A few days after posting my previously mentioned blog on CWD I received a call from QDMAs Lindsay Thomas. Lindsay is a true gentleman and editor of QDMAs Quality Whitetails magazine. As such he has published a number of articles I have authored over the last several years. Lindsay called to voice his objection to my position on CWD and ask me to reconsider noting the audience that I have. To make a long story short, I spent considerable time this fall thinking about my conversation with Lindsay and my position on CWD. The point of sharing this story is that my position on CWD and my willingness to share it very well may have cost me the opportunity to have future articles published in Quality Whitetails. Don’t get me wrong, I respect Lindsay as much as I ever have and he never said that he would not publish more of my articles. He and I may never agree on CWD but that doesn’t make either of us bad people or mean that one of us has a hidden agenda. I fully believe Lindsay and I both share a genuine concern for our beloved whitetail but just have opposing views on CWD.
In another situation a business partner and I dissolved our business partnership in recent months and a big part of the reason driving this decision was my willingness to openly take a stand on political issues. He felt it cost us sales and was probably right. I simply don’t care about money as much as I do principles. That’s just who I am. Right is right and wrong is wrong. Money does not drive me and again, anyone that knows me very well will confirm this. My position on CWD and my willingness to voice it has nothing to do with money and these two examples prove it.
Don’t tell me it’s about money for me! My whitetail passion started 40 years ago when I shot my first buck and that flame just grows hotter with each passing season. I could have more money than anyone on earth but without the whitetail my life would be miserable.
I am sure that passionate folks on both sides of the CWD issue feel that they have the best interest of the whitetail at heart. At some point we need to get politics, money, emotions and agendas off the table and allow science and common sense to guide us. When I say “science” I am not talking about agenda-driven pseudo-science either of which there is plenty of to steer the CWD debate.
So just what is “agenda-driven pseudo-science”? Well here is a perfect example; In one study researchers at the University of Wisconsin took soil samples from 11 mineral sites and tested them for the presence of CWD prions. They indeed found CWD prions in 9 of the 11 mineral sites tested. The insinuated conclusion is that mineral sites spread CWD.
Here is my own “summary” of this particular study. These “scientists” go into an area with one of the highest incidence rates of CWD in the world to take these soil samples from mineral licks. Frankly, I would have been shocked had they NOT found CWD prions. My question is, why didn’t they also take soil samples from scrapes, deer trails, deer beds, food plots, etc etc etc and test those soil samples for the CWD prion and then compare the prion levels at each of these different locations within the same area? Does anyone believe the prion rate/levels would have been less in a scrape where every buck that comes along urinates than in a mineral lick? I think it is pretty obvious that this study was designed to support those who oppose supplemental feeding of wild deer and provides nothing in the way of true science to an unbiased CWD debate. (the summary of this study can be found here – https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0196745 )
As I have stated numerous times I am not an expert on CWD but I have reviewed a lot of material on the subject over the last several years. The very best and most factually accurate document I have found is “Current Scientific Knowledge About CWD” which was researched and prepared by four well respected professionals with PhD’s. This eye-opening document contains only FACTS which can stand up to the scrutiny of anyone arguing against it. The problem that critics of this document will almost always cite is that the research was funded by multiple captive deer groups. Critics simply cannot debate the facts so they try to discredit the source, a common liberal tactic. (this document can be found here – http://www.americancervidalliance.org/userfiles/File/Current-Scientific-Knowledge-About-CWD-Davis-et-al-April-20181.pdf )
So this brings me to the point of this article. I am one that relies on digesting information with a good deal of common sense to arrive at a logical position. I don’t determine my position on any subject based on propaganda, politics, emotion or pseudo-science. I combine facts with logic and common sense. As I have watched the CWD debate heat up I have noticed an obvious trend that I have completely kept to myself until now.
The vast majority of those who believe that CWD is catastrophic disease that is going to be the ruination of deer hunting and possibly the end of whitetail deer are college grads. They have spent time in these liberal incubators that regularly churn out radical liberals with illogical extreme views on every subject possible.
This is certainly not a knock on college grads. I just cited a study that I support which was prepared by four gentlemen with PhDs. Clearly not everyone that goes to college gets magically turned into a liberal. However as a father that has sent his two daughters off to college, I fully understand the liberal indoctrination that most college students face.
In my writings I have struggled with how to refer to those opposing groups on each side of the CWD debate so maybe we should refer to folks as either CWD-liberal or CWD-conservative. Let me make it very clear that just because one is a CWD-liberal does not mean that they share the same political or social views of most liberals in America. In fact they may be very conservative in every other way but their thinking on CWD clearly follows the liberal logic they got a taste of in their college days. In other words their “logic” is illogical. One thing is certain; these CWD liberals often see themselves as intellectually superior to us common folks. Hey, I will admit that I am just a simple country-boy that relies more on common sense and logic to form my view than a liberal professor.
Recently I was debating the CWD issue with a friend who is a college grad and a CWD-liberal. I questioned whether he would call DNR if he found a suspected CWD positive deer on his own farm. He assured me he would immediately do so because that is what the “rule makers” (his words) requires of him. I responded that these same rule-makers tell me it is OK to kill unborn babies. The debate ended. Checkmate! This CWD-liberal who again is a friend and a very good deer hunter, has been apparently unknowingly indoctrinated into the deep-state way of thinking, believing that the government has the answers to our problems. Being a CWD-conservative, I believe the government often IS the problem!
So this brings us to a huge dilemma. Will the two sides on the CWD debate ever be able to come together and work to address the CWD issue? Or will CWD become the lightning rod that divides deer hunters the way politics has divided our government and our society? To address CWD is going to require both sides working together. The common everyday deer hunter owns more and more habitat with each passing year and without him on-board the battle is already lost. Having state game agencies sending deer death squads out to the country is not a recipe for success but will further divide the CWD-liberals from the CWD-conservatives and make a solution much harder to find.
Taking a radical approach without scientific backing as is done in Illinois and now Minnesota and possibly soon in Indiana is a path towards division instead of unity. Instead of solving a problem it will create more problems. It is completely impossible for ethical conservation-minded deer hunters to accept that the answer to CWD at this point is mass-slaughter to the point of elimination of a species within an area. Without true scientific backing to support it, such a radical approach will never be well received. Such science simply does not exist today and as proof I offer the vast differences in opinions of those scientists who know a whole lot more than I do about CWD. As further proof I offer the vast differences in how state game agencies of neighboring states deal with CWD. Simply put, there is no better testimony to the lack of true science available regarding CWD than the scientists and state game agencies who vary so much in their opinions and methods of dealing with it.
How in the world can a deer hunter with a lick of common-sense in southern Illinois accept that supplemental feeding is a CWD disaster waiting to happen when a few miles to the east in Indiana supplemental feeding is allowed without any issues and a few miles to the south in Kentucky year round feeding is allowed including baiting during hunting season, also without issue? How can a deer hunter in Illinois accept that he needs to report any deer he suspects might have CWD knowing that if this is indeed the case, all the deer in that area will be wiped out for at least 5 years? Yet he has been told that the CWD prion will live for untold hundreds of years in the soil! What happens after 5 years; do new deer move into the area and become infected by those CWD prions that remain in the soil? Then what? The talking points spewed by the CWD-liberals don’t even line up with their actions. How many tax dollars do we waste chasing the boogey man and destroying our deer herds? If states want support from the public on the CWD issue they need to all get on the same page using real science combined with logic and common sense.
So is there a group capable of bringing all parties to the table and coming up with a comprehensive plan for dealing with CWD based on facts and real-science only? Will all states accept a common set of regulations as it pertains to dealing with CWD? Personally, I doubt it ever happens. Like a lot of things in today’s society, politics have ruined any chance of common-sense prevailing. Key players have dug in their heels and are not about to admit they were wrong.
As I sat in my deer stands last fall I often thought long and hard about my position on CWD and my conversation with QDMAs Lindsay Thomas. Was the advice I gave my fellow Illinois deer hunters before last hunting season “good advice”? Was I being a good steward of the natural resources entrusted to my generation? Is CWD really as bad as some make it out to be?
My conclusion after several months of deep thought and delving into more scientific material on CWD is that I am more convinced than ever that my position is the right one in regards to CWD but that I should always remain open-minded and willing to accept new information which might conflict with my current view. I currently believe CWD is a political disease whose prescribed cure is often way more devastating to our deer herds than the disease itself has ever proven to be.
At this point I will definitely not be reporting any deer that I suspect could have CWD in my home state of Illinois. I hope all other Illinois deer hunters will think long and hard about this decision also. I will not make any recommendations for hunters in other states other than to suggest they learn as much as they can about CWD in their state and how it is dealt with there.
I will be at the ATA show later this week and invite anyone on either side of the CWD issue to stop and visit with me. I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind nor is it likely that anyone will change mine. We can shake hands and “agree to disagree” hoping that we can find some common ground regarding CWD to bring opposing sides together. I will be in Real World Wildlife Products booth # 2307, hope to see you there.