Among my cherished hunting souvenirs is a tattered rucksack that I carried with me when I first hunted Wisconsin white-tailed deer in 1975.
It has a folding knife, a ball of twine, a tow rope and a red handkerchief.
These items constitute my field dress kit and have accompanied me every archery and gun hunt for twenty years.
Around this time of the year, I organize the packaging to let the memory flow.
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For a moment, I was sitting next to my father and brother, in a ground shutter in the Black River State Forest in Jackson County, and a campfire was smoking under our feet. After a while, I climbed my first tree stand on a farm in Racine County, and was surprised by the new experience of off-the-ground hunting.
Although these items are still usable, they have been replaced, including a bag with multiple zipper compartments and a knife to better hold its edges and with an visceral hook.
Times are changing. The same is true of methods, science and regulations.
Since a chronic wasting disease was found in wild Wisconsin deer caught during the 2001 hunting season, I adopted a new deer treatment method.
This is not my fabrication; it is based on recommendations from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
My process is driven by the advice of health experts, namely not to eat venison from CWD-positive animals.
Yes, there is really no human disease associated with CWD in deer. But I am on the side of prion researchers and epidemiologists who advise against eating meat from diseased animals.
With this goal in mind, I conducted a CWD test on every deer I killed.
The results not only helped me adhere to the goal of not feeding venison from CWD-positive animals to my family and friends, but also provided important data for landowners and the Ministry of Natural Resources.
Therefore, in the past, every hunting started with planning and packing. However, some equipment and processes have been modified. DNR provides best practice guidelines on preventing the spread of CWD on its website.
Following the advice of health experts, my field kit now includes rubber gloves for dressing deer in the field.
I mainly use a pair of durable, washable gloves that extend above my elbow. In some cases, I have also used disposable gloves.
I usually put two pairs of visceral gloves in my backpack (to prevent being torn or cut), as well as a mobile phone, knife, headlight, compass, binoculars, towing rope, first aid kit, and some food and water.
Then my preseason plan began to plan what would happen if I killed a deer. Where can I take the CWD test? Where can I peel and quarter? Is the deer carcass dustbin located near the hunting area I booked?
CWD testing on deer is easy and free.
DNR lists sampling points on its website. They include self-service kiosks, deer processors and taxidermists. Over the years, I have used all of these, as well as the DNR service center.
The drop-off option requires that the deer head has a neck of at least 3 inches.
To help prevent the spread of CWD, state regulations prohibit the transfer of whole carcasses from CWD-affected or neighboring counties unless they are taken to a licensed processor or taxidermist within 72 hours.
Because I prefer to slaughter my own deer, I tried to find a place where I could hang the deer, skin it, and remove the quarter and other cuts. I put them in the game bag, and then take them home for final processing and packaging.
The spine and other wastes are packed in double-layer plastic bags and stored in a local approved corpse disposal site. DNR also has a list on its website.
For cleaning, I wash all knives and other processing equipment with soap and water, then soak the knives for 10 minutes, and soak non-stainless steel items in 50/50 bleach and water solution for one hour.
The same bleach solution can be used to wipe counters and other work areas.
At home, the packaged venison is labelled and stored separately in the refrigerator until the CWD test result comes out.
I received a reply in just four days to two weeks.
Over the years, I had to throw meat only once. This is a very healthy-looking 11-pointer from Richland County. Yes, discarding those packages of venison is one of the most frustrating behaviors in my hunting life in Wisconsin.
Most of my deer disposal programs are voluntary. I realize that you might do things differently.
But I firmly believe that each of us should do everything we can to help prevent the spread of CWD. Responsible and careful handling of dead bodies is within our capabilities and can reduce the movement of infectious prions.
This is a safe and successful time for gun deer hunting in Wisconsin in 2021.