Bill Cochran Field Reports: Deer disease moves to the western part of the state

The number of deer in Virginia reported killed by hemorrhagic disease (HD) in recent weeks has surpassed the 150 mark with additional fatalities expected until the first freeze wipes out the insects that carry the disease.

HD is a common infectious disease of white-tailed deer that occurs in Virginia annually, but the strange thing about this year’s fatalities, they have occurred in far Southwest Virginia. Normally, piedmont Virginia is the hotbed.

Scott County has reported the most incidents, with 33 sightings and 64 deaths. Other counties impacted include Buchanan, 12 fatalities reported; Dickenson, 14; Lee, 36; Russell, 1; Washington, 5; and Wise, 20. Buchanan is the site of Virginia’s elk herd, but officials have reported no HD in the big animals.

“The current HD event in southwest Virginia is actually just the eastern boundary of a much larger and more serious HD problem that spread through the Appalachian Mountains this summer from eastern Tennessee, through eastern Kentucky, West Virgina and into Ohio and Pennsylvania,” said Matt Knox, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries deer project leader.

Kentucky has documented nearly 4,300 reports of HD.

HD outbreaks are characterized by otherwise healthy looking deer being found dead or dying near or in water late summer and early fall, Knox said. Past outbreaks in the eastern part of Virginia have been large enough to impact the size of the deer herd and lower hunting success..

Deer that appear diseased should be reported to the DGIF at its office in Wise, 276-376-4560, or via the agency’s Wildlife Helpline, 855-571-9003.

  • Tony Reaves believes he is the first sportsman in Virginia to kill a deer with a sling bow, an instrument made legal for hunting by the 2017 Virginia General Assembly. The South Boston resident is credited with introducing this novel way of hunting to the state. Sling bows are a modified slingshot that shoot traditional hunting arrows with lethal speed and accuracy. Reaves killed his deer during the early days of the archery season.
  • The 2017 acorn crop, a highly important food source for deer, turkey, bear and squirrel, is slightly above the long-term median for white oak and below it for red oak, according to the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries mast survey scheduled to be released shortly. In the central Piedmont, southern Piedmont and southern Tidewater areas, red oak acorns are classified as a failure. Even so, there are pockets of good production for both white and red oaks, according to DGIF biologist Katie Martin.
  • The Roanoke Valley Friends of NRA took in a record $52,300 during its recent fund-raising banquet at the Salem Civic Center. The event attracted 278 attendees, according to Al Milton, chairman. The monies benefit youth shooting programs, range development, shooting teams and safety programs. Additional information is available on the Roanoke Valley Friends of NRA Facebook page.
  • Richard Owen of Chester caught a three-day, 15-bass limit that weighed 40 pounds, 11 ounces to win the T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League regional tournament on the James River. He earned $65,000 in cash and prises. Second was James Wall of Greensboro, North Carolina, with 40 pounds, 7 ounces. Virginians in the top-10 in addition to Owen were,Chris Daves, of Spring Grove, fifth, 39-4, and Robert Stinger of Williamsburg, 10th, 36 pounds.
  • West Virginia tops State Farm’s list of places where you are most likely to be involved in a vehicle crash involving a deer. The odds are 1-in-43. This is the 11th consecutive year the Mountain State has topped all states. Second is Montana, then Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The chance of hitting a deer is lowest in Hawaii, where the odds are one-in-6,823.
  • The Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament has a new leader in the gray triggerfish category, a 7-pound catch by Jamison Wood of Virginia Beach who was bait fishing at the Norfolk Canyon.
  • Youth and apprentice fall turkey hunting weekend, Saturday and Sunday.
  • Early muzzleloading season, Nov. 4-17.
  • Smith Mountain Lake Striper Mafia Tournament, Nov. 11, information from
  • Firearms deer season opens Nov. 18.
  • Smith Mountain Lake Striper Mafia Tournament, Dec. 9, information from
  • Smith Mountain Lake Striper Mafia Tournament, March 24, information from
  • Smith Mountain Lake Striper Mafia Tournament, June 21 information from

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