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ehd cwd dead head deer skull

EHD Versus CWD | From Bad To Worse

Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) and Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) are the two biggest diseases that can impact your deer herd, but more specifically, your mature bucks. 

If you have never heard of either one, let me give you a quick summary. 

EHD | The Specifics

EHD is in the same group of viruses as Bluetongue (BT) Virus and because clinical symptoms are similar between the two, they are generally clumped together and called Hemorrhagic Disease. 

These types of viruses are transmitted by a biting midge, usually in late Summer or early Fall but can also occur in the Springtime. 

Clinical symptoms are highly variable. Initial symptoms include a feverish state where some animals can lose their fear of humans.  There was a video of a buck that went viral because it stumbled through a burning campfire on its way to drowning itself in a river, all while people stood around wondering what the heck was going on. 

Deer with EHD may die within 1-3 days after getting bitten if they have no immunity to the strain of virus that has infected them. 

map of ehd distribution in us
This is a map from the Southeastern Cooperative Disease Study showing where EHD has been found across the US from 1980-2015:

As deer attempt to relieve their fever, they often become dehydrated and will be found near water. 

Once a hard frost hits the landscape, the threat of further EHD outbreaks is complete for that growing season, but as soon as midges come back in the spring there is a chance for further outbreaks.

CWD | The Specifics

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), on the other hand, is caused by a protein that changes its shape to a non-functional version.  This prion protein normally resides all over the body, but is concentrated in the lymphatic system, brain and spinal tissues. 

Infected deer show no clinical symptoms for up to 18 months but are capable of spreading prions even before they show any outward sign of illness. 

In the later stages of the disease, animals lose coordination and become lame.  They also lose their appetite and fear of humans. They are typically found with dropping ears and head in a lower position. 

CWD has gotten a lot of press lately because of the concern to potentially impact humans, whereas EHD poses no direct threat to humans. 

buck in velvet
In areas where CWD prevalence is above 50%, mature bucks stand a higher chance of contracting the disease and dying.

Notice how I said ‘potentially’ impact?  That’s because there’s currently no evidence that it will impact humans, but that doesn’t mean it will always be that way. 

CWD is in a group of diseases known as Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies and in that same group of diseases is one that infects humans, called Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease (CJD). 

A variant Creutzfeldt Jakob disease (vCJD) can be acquired by eating meat from cattle infected with a similar disease called Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), also known as Mad Cow Disease. 

The fear is that one day humans will someday be susceptible to CWD, even though that day has yet to come. That’s because all animals carry some type of prion protein, but a major difference is that the human prion protein has slightly different amino acid structure than deer. 

There has also been recent concern that CWD can be transmitted to macaque monkeys, which are genetically much more similar to humans, but that information has yet to be published in scientific literature. 

What causes the normal prion protein to change into the mis-shaped disease state remains uncertain, although there are many theories about how this could happen. 

map of CWD distributiion in deer in the united states
Here is a map from the USGS showing the distribution of CWD across North America.

EHD Compared to CWD

The take home point is that both EHD and CWD can impact deer, but EHD is less of a long-term concern with your deer herd, because the more a deer herd is exposed, the more immunity it can build up. 

CWD, on the other hand, progressively gets worse until mature bucks are almost impossible to grow on the landscape because they become infected and die before they can reach the older age classes. 

This phenomenon is rare because CWD prevalence is low across most of the range of white-tailed deer, but can occur in certain areas where the prevalence is above 50%. That means the chance of a buck having CWD would be the same as flipping a coin to heads, and if you see a buck older than 3 years old in that area, they are more and more likely to contract it and die before reaching 6 years old. 

This is because mature bucks move about the landscape more often than females, especially during the breeding season. 

Bucks also mutually groom each other in bachelor groups during the summer months, so they have more opportunity to spread the disease than female groups, which tend to keep a more consistent home range throughout their lifetime.      

Here is a table to explain the differences between EHD and CWD:

EHDCWD
Caused by:Virus Mis-shaped prion protein
Mortality when contracted:5-50%100%
Duration of clinical illness:24 hrs to several weeks18-24 months, followed by death
Antibodies produced:YesNone yet
Long-term herd effect:Build up Immunity, herd reboundsUnknown, but might lower herd productivity if prevalence gets too high.  Mature males harder to grow. 
Geographic range:Almost entire lower 48Parts of 24 states and 2 Canadian Provinces
Human health impact:Cannot infect people No evidence of human health impacts

How to limit EHD In Your Deer Herd

So, what should you do as a hunter to help prevent the spread of EHD on your hunting property?

  • If you have a pond edge, plant vegetation that can withstand moist soil right up the edge of the water.
  • Spread quick growing seeds like rye grain on areas of a creek bottom that have been exposed to flooding and try to reduce the amount of mud exposed.
  • Fogging for insects around ponds on a still morning may also reduce adult populations thus limiting the spread of disease. 
  • You can also keep your herd healthy by supplemental feeding and using minerals. Ani-Logics Outdoors has produced a health additive for their feed and minerals that can increase immune system function.  When the immune system is firing on all cylinders, the deer that gets bitten by an infected midge has an increased chance of survival.  Those that are in poor bodily condition when bitten by the midge have a much higher chance of dying.

 How To Limit CWD

As for CWD, the best thing you can do to prevent the spread is not to move the carcass of deer harvested in a CWD area. Also, dispose of the remains in a state approved landfill or incinerator. 

If you harvest a trophy buck in a CWD area, make sure the taxidermist you use is local, and make sure they properly dispose of the brain and spinal cord tissue without putting it back on the landscape. 

If everyone hunting in a CWD area removed all the CWD positive carcasses off the landscape, prevalence would remain low enough that no population level concerns would ever occur.  There would be no way to eliminate the amount of prion proteins already deposited on the landscape, but at least we wouldn’t be adding more fuel to the CWD fire by always putting more diseased prions in the woods. 

If you hunt in an area that is not known to have CWD, you should still get your deer tested because deer have been known to make very long excursions outside of their normal range. 

Here in Minnesota, the DNR recently tracked a collared deer that made a 75-mile one-way trek.  Thankfully it was not CWD positive at the time, but if one deer did it, that means other can as well.

Best of luck in having a healthy deer herd!

*deer skull article photo used by permission from Brad Alan

man sighting in a riflescope

Bullseye | How To Sight In A Riflescope

If you’re ready to invest a little money in upgrading your rifle, one of the best things you can buy that will totally transform the way you shoot is a scope.

Not only will a scope improve your range and accuracy, but it will make our beloved sport more competitive and much safer.

But buyer beware.

Not all scopes are created equal! Some scopes are just poorly made, and other scopes are made for various purposes.

For example, the scopes I recommend in my 6.5 Creedmoor guide are solely dedicated for long range shooting.

Do You Need A Riflescope?

But before you buy a riflescope, learn why you should even buy a riflescope in the first place.

Some are built for tactical purposes while other sniper/hunting scopes specialize in longer-range targets. A quick pro-tip here is that it’s generally better to have too much scope than not enough. So, if you must err on the side of caution, err in favor of the scope.

I Have A Riflescope… Now What?

mounting a riflescope
Purchasing a riflescope is only the beginning. You should properly mount and sight in your scope before you ever think about shooting it.

Okay, so you’re happy with the scope you’ve purchased, and now you want to get out and shoot, right?

Wrong.

Only after you have properly mounted your riflescope can you sight it. This component is just as important as anything else because it is how you customize the rifle to your own anatomy and mechanics.

Your arm length, eye spacing, and the unique way you hold the rifle are slightly different from everybody else, and these subtle differences can make a big difference downrange.

You might find it is easiest to sight your rifle at a local shooting range. However, if you live far from one but have a lot of land nearby, just make sure you’re shooting in a safe direction where there is no chance of passing hikers, campers, etc.

Make sure you use the same exact brand and weight of bullets that you’ll be using on the hunt. Even the slightest variation can have a significant effect on how the round fires.

The basic idea of sighting is to make sure the bullet hits exactly where you’re aiming. If this doesn’t happen, it is either because of two things:

  1. You need a refresher on the fundamentals of marksmanship.
  2. Or the scope isn’t properly sighted.

Assuming it’s number 2, you might be wondering:

How do I properly sight my scope? Keep reading to find out!

Step 1: Focus the Reticle

The first thing you need to do is make sure your reticle is in focus.

The reticle is the shape (crosshairs, a singular dot or circle, a triangle, etc.) you see when you look through the scope, and its function is to indicate scale or location of an object.

view through riflescope and reticle
Step 1 of sighting in your riflescope is to be sure you focus the reticle.

Look through the scope to ensure the whole picture is sharp. If it’s blurry, twist the diopter adjustment on the scope, which is typically going to be the end of the scope closest to your eye.

Something to keep in mind is that when shooting is that you will be focusing your naked eyes way downrange, scanning for targets or game, and then you’ll quickly switch to the scope right in your face.

Your eyes take a little time to adjust, so the view through the scope can be a little blurry for a few seconds.

To eliminate this lag, look away from the scope and let your eyes focus on something else at a distance. Stare at it for a few moments, then quickly look through the scope and in the brief moments before your eyes adjust, determine if the picture appears blurry. Keep doing this until the image is sharp and in focus immediately upon looking through the scope.

Step 2: Boresighting

view while sighting in riflescope view
When boresighting your riflescope, be sure that what you’re aiming at down the barrel is the same thing your reticle is aimed at.

Boresighting your rifle first will save a lot of time and ammo.

This will take just a few minutes and will ready your weapon for the fine-tuning we are about to do.

First, securely mount the rifle to aim downrange at a highly visible target 25 yards away. Then, remove the bolt so you can see straight down the barrel at the target.

Look through and aim the barrel center mass. Next, look through the scope to ensure the reticle also lands center mass. You will likely need to adjust the scope’s turrets to achieve this. The turret on top adjusts the scope’s elevation (up and down) and the one on the side adjusts its windage (to the left and right).

Once your reticle is adjusted center mass, replace the bolt and get ready to start shooting.

Pro-tip: There are even specialized zero targets you can use that are gridded to help precisely determine the adjustments you need to make. You’ll see why that might be useful later.

Step 3: Fine Tuning

Sighting requires great precision, so make sure the rifle is either mounted or thoroughly supported for this step.

Replace the bolt, insert your high-quality ear protection, and fire three rounds directly at the bullseye of your target at 25 yards. You will probably not hit the bullseye, so focus more at the consistency of the shot group.

scope turrets for sighting in riflescope
Use your scope turrets to fine tune your riflescope. 1 click typically changes shot location by 1/4 of an inch at 100 yards.

If your three shots are really close to each other, but the whole group is about 1 inch south and 2 inches west of the bullseye, you need to adjust the elevation for 1 inch and the windage for 2. It looks complicated, but it’s really simple. The turrets we were playing with earlier in the article are what we will now use to fine-tune your scope.

But before I go in-depth, here’s a quick primer on elevation and windage adjustments:

Usually one click changes the location of the bullet’s impact by ¼ inch at a target 100 yards away. The way we represent that is “1/4 MOA,” where MOA stands for Minute Of Angle. Four clicks will move the bullethole one inch in the direction indicated.

But, if the target is only 25 yards away, we need to move the dial 4x as many clicks to move the bullethole the same 1 inch. If the target is 200 yards away, conversely, 2 clicks move it 1 inch. Four hundred yards away, 1 click for 1 inch.

So for the example above, we need to rotate the turret 16 times to elevate 1 inch and another 32 clicks to the right. The turret itself will indicate which direction to turn and the MOA (although most are ¼).

Once your scope is sighted for the target at 25 yards, it is time to extend the range to 100.

Fire another three rounds for your shot group, then determine how far off the bullseye the group is located.

Measure the deviation and adjust your elevation and windage in the same way we just did, bearing in mind that 4 clicks at this distance will equal 1 inch.

Fire another shot group at your 100-yard target, and if they hit where you wanted them to, you have successfully sighted your scope.

Happy Hunting!

how to make a european mount

DIY Deer Skull | How To Make Your Own European Mount

Have you ever wanted to learn how to make your very own European mount of your recent big game harvest But weren’t sure where to start? We’ll show you how easy it is!

6-point buck
The European mount is a great option for a buck you won’t be taking to the taxidermist. And, it can be done very inexpensively.

The European Mount | A Great DIY Opportunity

On a recent bow hunt trip to South Georgia, my partners and I had identified a wide 6-point with spindly antlers and very small brow tines, as a buck that we felt like would be a good one to go ahead and harvest if given the opportunity.

Well, that opportunity presented itself the very next morning, as I was able to able to take this buck with my bow at about 12 yards, which is always fun and always a blessing.

However, this management buck was not one I was going to take to the the taxidermist.

So, we felt like this would be a great opportunity to show those of you at home how to do your very own European mount.

The “euro mount” process is not near as difficult as it might seem. You can do the entire process as home for as little as $10.

Instructional Video

In the below video, N1 Outdoors® co-founder, Josh Wells, teaches you the Euro mount process, step-by-step. Be sure you watch to the end of the video where Josh teaches you how to prep the head and the skull for this process that he shows you. We hope you learn something. Enjoy!

Learn how to make a European mount | Step-by-step instructional video

Supplies You’ll Need To Make A European Mount

We’ve got a few essential materials that you will need to do European mount. I will go through those with you in just a second.

I want you to know that I’m not a taxidermist. I’m not a professional doing this. But, I have done it several times and over the years and through trial and error, have figured out some of the best practices in doing a Euro mount.

I’ve gotten the product where it has turned out almost as good as what you would get from a taxidermist. So, hopefully this video helps you out.

A few supplies that you are going to need to the European mount are obviously, a knife to skin the head from the skull, a good set of forceps, a screw driver.

items for euro mount
You can do your own European mount for under ten dollars.

You will also need two quarts of hydrogen peroxide and some liquid dish soap. You’ll also need some dark wood stain, masking tape, clear shrink wrap, and a pitcher or a big cup to add water to the pot as it’s boiling.

  • Knife for skinning
  • Forceps
  • Screwdriver
  • 2 Quarts Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Liquid Dish Soap
  • Dark Wood Stain
  • Masking Tape
  • Clear Shrink Wrap
  • Water Pitcher

How To Make A Euro Mount Step-By-Step

boiling deer skull
In just 5 hours, you can have a European mount for your deer skull that you can be proud of.

Time needed: 5 hours.

How to do your own European mount…

  1. Remove the skin of the deer head

    Using your knife, remove the skin from the deer head and remove the lower jaw.

  2. Boil the skull

    Add 1/4 cup of liquid dish soap to the water in the pot you will boil the skull in. On a very slow boil, simmer the skull for 4 hours.

  3. Remove tissue

    After you remove the skull from the water, use your knife and forceps to remove eyes, tissue and tendons from the skull. Use the screwdriver to remove the ear buds so you can access the brain cavity. Remove the sinus tissue with the forceps. Use a water hose to spray in the brain cavity to remove the brain tissue.

  4. Add Peroxide

    Add 2 quarts of hydrogen peroxide to your boiling water.

  5. Wrap antlers

    Use shrink wrap to wrap around the bases of the antlers to protect them from being bleached. Secure the plastic wrap with masking tape.

  6. Boil skull again for 30 minutes

    Put the skull back in the water containing the peroxide for another 30 minutes.

  7. Remove shrink wrap and touch up as needed

    Remove the deer skull from the boiling water and touch up the bases of the antlers with the dark wood stain if there has been any bleaching.

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Time Requirements

This whole process will take about 5 hours. You will boil the skull on a very low boil for 4 hours. Then, you’ll need to budget about 30 minutes or an hour for cleanup and for bleaching the skull (bleaching will take about 30 minutes.)

The key to the process is the 4 hour boiling time. If you do it for 3 hours, it’s not going to come off as good. Slow simmer for 4 hours works best. If you boil it too hard, it’s going to weaken the bone and you’re going to break some bones. So, be sure it’s a slow simmer. Don’ try to do it too fast.

Remove Meat and Tendons

removing tissue from deer skull
After boiling, remove eyes and tissue from the skull.

After 4 hours of boiling the skull in the liquid dish soap, the meat around the skull will be very tender. You just work your knife in and remove the meat and the tendons as best as you can. Much of the meat will just fall away during this process.

You don’t want to get too aggressive with it because you can pop a bone loose.

The most aggravating part is around the eye sockets because all the eye sockets connect to the inside of the skull in the brain (we’ll cover how we are going to get the brains out shortly) and it makes them a little bit harder to get to.

Remove The Ear Buds

All After you’ve gotten all the meat scraped off, it’s now time to pop the ear buds out. This is how we get the brains out.

Take your screwdriver and work it around in the ear buds and pop them out.

removing sinus tissue from deer skull
Remove the sinus tissue from the from the skull with forceps.

Remove Sinus Tissue

Now use the forceps to remove all the sinus tissue.

You need to get everything out of the sinus cavity because anything that you leave, will cause the bone to turn yellow. It may take two or three years for it to happen, but I’ve had it happen.

Be gentle while the skull is hot, because if you are too rough while removing the tissue, you could break the bone.

And, if you do break the bone, don’t worry. Sometimes the bones at the bottom of the nose will come loose if these tendons get cooked too long. If they do, you can put them back with super glue. So, don’t worry if they come off. You can super glue them back.

Get as much of the sinus tissue as you can from the front side and then you can get the rest under the brain cavity.

rinsing out deer skull brain
Use a water hose to rinse out the brain cavity.

Remove The Brain

Once you get the ear buds popped out and you get the sinus cleaned out, you’re going to need a water hose to rinse out the brain tissue.

Some people will use a pressure washer for this step. I don’t like using a pressure washer because if you’re not careful, you can damage the bone.

Put the water hose into the hole where the brain is located and flush out the brain matter. Anything left over will break loose once we boil the skull for the second time in the peroxide.

Prep Antlers And Boil Skull In Peroxide

antlers in pot with peroxide
Wrap antlers in shrink wrap and masking tape and boil a second time for 30 minutes.

Once you are finished rinsing the brain matter out of the brain cavity, it’s time to boil the skull for a second time in order to bleach the bone white.

Add two quarts of hydrogen peroxide to the existing pot of water.

Wrap the base of each antler tightly with shrink wrap and secure it with masking tape. There’s not really any particular way that you need to do this other than to just get them wrapped from the base up to the bottom of the brow tine.

Once the skull is placed into the boiling water, the plastic wrap will shrink tightly to the antlers and keep out the majority of the water. Some water may find its way through and that’s why we have the dark stain.

We can come back and if some of these darker parts around the base get bleached a little bit, we just use a q-tip to re-color it and you’ll never know the difference.

Once the antlers have been adequately wrapped, place the skull back into the boiling water and peroxide for 30 minutes.

The Finishing Touches

After the 30-minute boil in the peroxide and water, remove the skull and take the plastic wrap off.

touching up bleached antlersq
Touch up any bleached areas of the antler base with wood stain and q-tip.

The plastic wrap will seem sticky and gummy, sticking tightly to the antlers. And, that’s what you wanted to do because that keeps the peroxide off of the antlers and prevents it from bleaching.

If there has been any unwanted bleaching on the base of the antlers, use a very small amount of the dark wood stain and apply to those areas with a q-tip. You can repeat as many times as you like to get the desired darkness.

But, how do you get the skin off the skull initially?

I wanted to go back and cover the preparation process of the skull before you even start to boil it.

Obviously, you have to cut the deer’s head off. And preferably, you would want to cut it at the last vertebra that connects to the back of the skull. (Normally what happens because the deer’s neck and ears compressed on the spine, is that most people naturally cut about one vertebra back, so you have to two things to cut off before you can start boiling the skull.)

brain lobe of deer skull
to remove the last vertebra, cut just behind the brain lobe as pictured here.

The place you want to be careful about is this lobe on the back of the skull where the brains are. Be careful not to cut into that lobe. Just use it as a guiding point as you cut. Once you cut around it, you will be able to remove the last vertebra.

But while the deer head is lying on the ground, get your knife between the teeth and just cut back toward the back of the head. There’s going to be meat back there, so you want to cut that on both sides, so that you can open the deer’s mouth.

Once you’ve cut, pull the jaw all the way back until the bones that joined up under the brain cavity are loosened. Then then you can remove the meat from around those bones and pop that bottom jaw off.

Now, you are ready to start boiling!

Conclusion

We hope you’ve enjoyed this instructional article and video on how to do your very own European mount. We hope you have a great deer hunting season, and remember… where moments happen, we’ll meet you there!

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