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Tim's Big Game Blog

EHD hitting Illinois deer hard

Wed, August 29, 2012

ehd dead deer

Blue tongue/epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) is hitting Illinois with a vengeance, and it started early this year – no matter what you read somewhere else.

Due to the extreme drought, my latest info is that EHD has been reported in more than 40 of 102 Illinois counties, although I’m confident there’s many more than that. And I’m confident it is spreading rapidly, since it is still early in the usual timeline for this disease.

Counties reporting so far include Calhoun, Vermilion, Cook, Will, Wayne, Marion, Cumberland, Schuyler, Fulton, Johnson, Effingham, Fayette, Williamson, Shelby, Macon, Cass, Morgan, Pike, Saline, Jefferson, Brown, Adams, Knox, Jasper, Perry and Washington.

The disease has also showed up in Indiana, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and Michigan. And it’s just getting started, since only a frost will stop it now.

What is EHD? Every year in the U.S. there are outbreaks of Hemorrhagic Disease (HD) in deer. HD is caused by two different virus families, epizootic hemorrhagic disease virus (EHDV) and blue tongue virus (BTV). Both are similar. Man is not affected by these two viruses that we know of. 

The disease is passed by no-see-ums, midges, punkies, sand flies, etc. These tiny insects carry the virus and when they bite a deer, infect the deer with the virus. They breed in muddy, wet areas and also in areas that are wet and have a high degree of organic matter. 

Dry conditions congregate the deer in areas where the insects are breeding. Click here to read more about the disease.

Here’s a probable EHD death from southern Illinois that measured 203 inches and was found by a pond in mid-August.

ehd buck 203

This year’s early emergence of the disease is similar to 2007, when the outbreak started at the end of August and went full bore through September and on. This year the disease started around Aug. 1. And with the severe drought throughout the entire Midwest, this may be “the big one’” after which state wildlife divisions may have to take a hard look at their future harvest goals in hard-hit counties.

That’s “if” their Deer Management Computer Model can actually accept new data. I realize that’s never going to happen here in Illinois. If I had a paid deer hunt booked in the infected areas, I’d be looking at my contract to see if I could re-book for about 4 years out, as the more mature bucks always seem to succumb first.

Then again, this may be the IDNR’s dream come true to lower the Illinois deer-vehicle accident (DVA) rates! As the deer die off, and to justify all the new “herd reduction”  and crossgun deer seasons, IDNR may have to lower its DVA target from 207, to around 107 per billion miles driven in many counties before this is over.

Of course in the fall of 2007, they called that a “minor” outbreak and added more gun seasons thereafter, even though that year saw the worse EHD/blue tongue outbreak in Illinois deer-herd history. Parts of the state saw mortality at around 55 percent and, contrary to IDNR statements, many of those areas still have not recovered. 

Click here to see an example of exactly what I’m talking about when I say the IDNR “downplays” things. Dated Aug. 9, this article came out LONG BEFORE we even get into the peak season for heavy EHD dieoffs.

And IDNR Deer Project Manager Mr. Micetich states here that in 2007, EHD killed 1,966 deer statewide. Well I can tell you firsthand, it killed more than that in just a couple counties in west-central Illinois. I highly suspect they really don’t want to admit to the actual mortality from this disease, as it’s really bad press for permit sales – especially the Outfitter/NonResident cash cow that Springfield relies on so much.

And it doesn’t help to justify the never-ending new deer seasons. Now I realize that the IDNR didn’t create EHD/blue tongue, and I realize they can’t stop it. But what really gets my goat is when they downplay it or even simply ignore it when it comes to proper deer herd management in Illinois.

IDNR outdid itself this year by coming up with a new crossbow season BEFORE the deer even started dying! Wonder what they’ll call this one, minor again? They told me that they just didn’t get that many reports in 2007.

Well I’m reporting it right now, here on HO. I now realize that when CPOs (they usually get the calls) are called out to dead or dying deer, the IDNR Wildlife division does not necessarily count those as reported, as they never know about them.

And most farmers whom find dead deer on their farms, couldn’t care less about reporting it to a Springfield office and then “maybe” have to deal with some guy showing up to say, “Yup, it’s a dead deer alright.”  They simply do not report it and go on about their business, as it’s just less deer to eat the crops. I saw that firsthand in 2007 with my farmer neighbors where I live.

Deer you find most likely will be in/around ponds and creeks, even though they may have already dried up long ago. Some will be dead in the timber and even out in open ag fields, like was the case in 2007.

Here’s an EHD buck in a Shelby County creek in mid-August. They tell me the dead deer are thick along the Kaskaskia River.

ehd shelby county

Click here to see a video from WAND in Decatur (you have to sit through a commercial first).

We will keep you all posted on what we hear about EHD. If any of our HO readers find or have found dead deer in counties other than what’s listed above, let us know here under the Comments section.




Tim, why is it that mature bucks seems to get hit harder?

Posted by Treehugger on August 29

Tim- I think you hit the nail on the head.  We as conservationists need to communicate when we see or hear of these outbreaks.  I blogged on numerous posts last year that it was not gun hunters or doe killers that were the cause of decreased numbers it was mother nature.  I was chastised as being negative then, but as these stories gain momentum the real issues can be brought to light. 

I do not believe in any IDNR conspiracy, however I do believe that they are only reporting on what is called in.  We all know that the number of kills from this disease is 10 times the number called in.  I will agree that the IDNR is naive if they believe only 1900 deer were impacted by this in 2007.  For the IDNR to ignor what we all know to be true is irresponsible and reckless.

I enjoy your blogs as well as most others on HO, however you will not convince me that adding x-bow season was a bad decision by the IDNR.  I understand that you may not agree with expanded or increased seasons, but increasing hunter participation which is what that bill was intended to do is not a bad thing.  By continuing to group these types of changes in with LDS gives me the indication that you do not embrace all the different means to harvest a whitetail.  You and I do not have to hunt with x-bows, but lets not judge those that do, after all they are “Hunters” and we are all on the same team.

Posted by PIMPSTAFFER HATER on August 29


I always assumed that older bucks are often killed because they are older and thus less healthy and more susceptible.  I don’t know if that is the case or not, but that is what I thought.
-Darin DeNeal

Posted by shootist on August 29

Have not witnessed any deer in my hunting areas in adams county yet with this issue but I would not doubt this a huge problem across the state or even the Great Plains and Midwest reagion.  Went to hang some stands this past sunday and looked in the creek on the farm and it has pleanty of water and its not stagnent so my specific area may not be effected by this.  That being said if this is the way that mother nature takes care of a overpopulated deer hear than so be it but who determines over populated? Our dnr has shown in the past that they overlook the hunters and outdoorsman to form their own (agenda) opinion. 
The reason I and most believe the x-bow season has come to happen is because of profit of extra tags being available and to decrease the so called over populated deer heard.  Neither of these examples should be the answer or the solution to the so called problem. 
  I am all for anybody that needs the use of a x-bow for injury that does not allow said person the physically pull the mandated poundage for a conventional bow, long bow or recurve. I am alos not against Kids that have their hunter education course completed and are with a parent to use x-bows as well.  But I am not sure adding this as another weapon all around is a smart idea. 
Why not only allow x-bow hunting during the gun seasons?  The weapon is held the same way a gun is, a scope is used on most x-bows like a gun.  and this would be more challengeing during the gun season than a shotgun or muzzleloader.

Posted by adamsctybucks on August 29

I floated the Sangamon River for about 8 miles in my kayak. I was in Sangamon county and saw 3 dead and could smell another one but never seen it. I emailed DNR about it and gave them my cell. A guy called me and said that the 3 I reported made 50 along the Sangamon River reported so far. That is just what has been reported and this was 3 weeks ago.

Posted by sstrohk on August 29

treehungger, I can not truly answer your question, but darrin may be right. All I know is what I’ve seen owning my timbered farm for 23 years, and EHD does indeed really hurt the older bucks- It seems to be way out of proportion” that of dead mature bucks to younger bucks and even Does.

well stated: And you’re right, we’ll never totaly all be on the same page my friend. But Any new seasons and new “Means” should be based solely on Biology and proper deer herd management, and the NEED for those new seasons and means to control a deer herd, and not solely on increased hunter participation. But in this instance you are correct-The IDNR did add the Xbow season for that reason: Because they needed to tap the last possible funding left out there-over 100,000 gun hunters whom DON’T bowhunt- there’s still some new cash to be made there!

I won’t judge the hunters, but I’ll say this: If you want to convince me a Crossbow is bowhunting and not gun hunting, Then take the trigger mechanism off one and go hunting with it using a finger tab or regular release: tell be how well it works out for ya.

Posted by walmsley on August 29

Maybe people are more just likely to photograph and report those dead deer that have antlers.

Posted by Walston on August 29

Just today I got a text from a friend of mine whose hunting property is 20 miles north of mine in Southeastern Illinois (Coles county).  He indicated that his neighbor had found 27 dead dear due to blue tongue.

Posted by Cooper on August 29

Thanks Cooper- I did not have Coles, but not a suprise considering it’s all around that area- Just today, I received new reports of EHD in POPE and LOGAN counties.

Treehugger, I got a call from a Biologist friend concerning your question of why older deer seem to die off more from this Virus. He related that it’s a lot like Human deseases, Many attack the young and old due to their resistance not being what it is in people in their prime years. Makes sense.

Posted by walmsley on August 30

I found two does in Clark County this week.  They were in different parts of the county.

Posted by Shane on August 30

I had just sent an email to some buddy’s in Clark asking if they’d found any there. Thanks Shane!

Posted by walmsley on August 30

Well i spend more time in the deer woods in adams county than most anyone and yet to find the first deer dead. So some may be jumping the gun alittle on some reports in these few surrounding counties. But whatever it takes to get the dnr to remove the late doe seasons would be great!!!

Posted by Longfellowbucks on August 31

SHANE and WALMSLEY, I hunt in Clark County, just curious what parts of Clark County you are finding/hearing reports(in Walmsley’s case)of EHD.  I was planning on waiting until Opening Day to be on our property again but I think I might walk the creeks and nearby ponds soon.  Comment, PM me, it doesn’t matter.

Posted by backwoodshntr on August 31

Shane, Can you help Backwoods with his question? Thanks

Longfellow, Dead deer have been documented from the Adams/Brown line, to the Camp Point area-On down to the Knapheide Landing in the river. Pretty much spread out across the county-  It’s not at the 2007 level as of this point so far. I hope your farm remains EHD free- I’m thinking that this rain could be a big help if it fills Creeks/Mud holes/ and raises pond levels. “Hope it doesn’t have the opposite effect”. It won’t do anything to raise the river backwaters of course.

Posted by walmsley on August 31

Backwoods, not sure where Shane was, but I have buddies in the Martinsville area that have not found any as of yet!

Posted by walmsley on August 31

Have had several come up dead here in Marion County also. We keep checking our property and haven’t found any yet but other friends have. Several out by Forbes lake and in Patoka area.

Posted by DoeGirl0317 on August 31

If the flies are around already is it just a waiting game for a frost? Are some deer able to some how be resistant to the bite?

Posted by Longfellowbucks on August 31

Backwoods, One was along the north fork, southwest of Martinsville about 5 miles.  I talked to a landowner west of the property I was on that had found 3 others, all does.  The other was basically straight north of Martinsville about 5 miles along the north fork. I am not hearing many reports from Clark County like some other counties.

Posted by Shane on September 01

Thanks.  I hunt along Willow Creek so I know where you’re talking.  I’m guessing since I didn’t get out last night that any dead deer will have floated downstream by now!

Posted by backwoodshntr on September 01

LFB- Frost is the only thing that can totaly stop it the way I read it-Some Deer appear to be resistant-you say you’re from Adams- Then you remember full well what happened there in 07- Much of Adams saw 50% plus deer loss- However, the question arrises—Why not the other 50%?? Don’t know! As far as resistance goes, Deer Breader friends of mine tell me deer that are exposed to the virus that DON’T get sick, may actually get some resistance and that it is actually passed down through fawns-and may last for some generations, but weakening as years go by-Don’t know if that’s accurate or not. In 07, we saw it kill more than 50% in bucks 3 1/2 and older, but some never got it- I had one that I beleived was 7 1/2- He appeared fine long after the outbreak- BUT, in late January, he got sick- He didn’t want to stand up or eat. I watched him for a couple days and realized he was dying. I couldn’t legaly put him out of his misery so I called the CPO to do it, but whan he came out the deer was dead-killed by Coyotes. To our surprise, the poor guy had Foundered Hoof’s just like a horse gets- They were litterly curved up in the air 5 to 6 inches, and some had just fell off-It left him with trying to stand on Bloody bones- Had to be horrible pain- I’ve since learned it was from the EHD virus, as that’s a side effect of exposure, even though he appeared fine for over 4 months after the intitial outbreak-I’ll try to post Pic’s I have of him here.

Posted by walmsley on September 01

LFB, by the way, the pic at the top of my story of the Yearling buck in the water, was taken north of the Quincy bridge in the bay.

Posted by walmsley on September 01

the bad part about ehd is that the frost only kills the midges that cause the disease not the disease already in the deer. alot of mature bucks will make it through the inital infection but then die after running themseves down during the rut. we found many more mature bucks, most already shed in january the last time we had a bad outbreak. we had deer running around that year that had legs all swelled up like baseball bats. when you look at the hooves most were seperating or completely gone.

Posted by 1BOONR on September 01

1BOONR, besides the hoof problems in the late 2007 season, something Else I saw was people bringing me adult bucks killed towards the end of that season that still had velvet on their antlers!  Being sick effected their normal rut/rubbing!

Posted by walmsley on September 01

Backwoods, only got about 1/2 inch here last night.  I hunt along willow creek as well.

Posted by Shane on September 01

Hmm, didn’t know that stressed EHD deer may not shed velvet. I shot a booner in full velvet on October 2nd in 07. I thought it was wierd but didnt notice any testicle injuries, sounds like the mystery may be solved.

Posted by yellowstone on September 05

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