Hunting Season is Here. Are You Safe? Is the Meat Safe? What are the Real Dangers

Out in the hinterland – that is, where there are more trees and deer than people, gun control means hitting what you aim at.

During hunting season the police and neighbors who would normally show some concern upon seeing people wandering around the woods heavily armed, will ignore or perhaps target them

The first threat during hunting season is getting shot either by accident, or, or occasionally a bit less randomly.

If you hunt where you live, there is just one question you need to ask yourself. Just how pissed off some of your gun-toting neighbors are about what you did or they think you did to them?

What did you say about their darling Betty when you were out drinking last July, or do they think your new lawn tractor looks a lot like the one you lost a few months ago, only a new camo paint job?

A subset of concern is the reason real experienced seasoned hunters don’t get buck fever and head into the woods on that first big day of hunting season.

That first day of deer season is the night after heavy drinking by city-living lawyers, dentists, doctors, and lawyers who, after a hard day’s work and argument with their spouse, drove 200 miles and got to their favorite cabin in the woods where they decided a few sand witches were better than heating up the smoky stove and that the beer should be saved for later celebration – no, the first night is definitely for scotch, or among the less affluent bourbon.

So the bleary eyed city contingent moves out at dawn as these semi sober occasional drunks who probably only go into the woods once a year and even less often clean and sight in their rifles, happily head to their tree stands prepared to shoot anything that looks brown and big enough to skin.

But getting accidentally, or intentionally shot is just one danger.

You can also get mauled by that Bear you thought would die when poked with a tiny 223 cal. bullet which he probably ignored. About now you are thinking back to that 50 Cal. Alexander Arms Beauwolf, or that a 12 gauge slug cartridge was less macho looking but a lot more appropriate than a mini-14.

The other major concern in hunting is the quality of the meat you will be harvesting.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) here are some concerns besides the threat of heart attack for elderly men who spend 51 weekends each year sitting in an office chair:

Kennel Cough – as it is know in dogs, is actually tuberculosis, a bacterial lung infection which can be deadly. Brucelosis is easy to pass along to hunters because they are in close proximity to the breath, blood and other parts of the animals

Wild hogs are getting dangerous and are a common prey.

Bison, Elk, Caribou/ Reindeer and /Moose are also a threat along with the predators who prey on them – wolves and bears.

To protect yourself just use common sense, eye protection, clean hands frequently, wear gloves, do not feed raw meat to your dogs, and burn or bury any waste along with the gloves and infected clothing.

When it comes to cooking, forget hanging, cook to a safe core temperature and let the meat rest 10 minutes before carving..

The symptoms to watch for may be concealed by alcohol – fever, headache, joint and muscle pain.

cute but deadly

Parasites are the next danger, primarily Trichinellosis or Trichinosis.

For Whole Cuts of Meat (excluding poultry and wild game) CDC recommends Cook to at least 145degrees F core temperature.

For Ground Meat (including wild game, excluding poultry) cook to 160F.

For all wild game poultry 165 degrees F is a safe bet. Fight BAC: Safe Food Handling

for other cases use common or not so common health procedures related to cooking any foods.

Also, discarded carcasses should be burned, not left for scavengers to spread any diseases.

Game from Farm to Table (USDA)

Safe Preparation of Jerky (USDA)

Chronic Wasting Disease (Mad Cow) is a prion disease meaning little is known about it or how to cure those who are infected – try to avoid CWDs. Mad Cow is a scary and appropriate name.

Here is a link to a map showing risky ranges,

Game from Farm to Table (USDA)

CDC map 2013


1. Boulder County

2. Douglas County

3. Eagle County

4. El Paso County

5. Grand County

6. Jackson County

7. Jefferson County

8. Larimer County

9. Logan County

10. Mesa County

11. Moffatt County

12. Morgan County

13. Phillips County

14. Pueblo County

15. Rio Blanco County

16. Routt County

17. Sedgwick County

18. Summit County

19. Weld County

20. Yuma County


1. Boone County

2. Dekalb County

3. DuPage County

4. Grundy County

5. Jo Daviess County

6. Kane County

7. Kendall County

8. LaSalle County

9. McHenry County

10. Ogle County

11. Stephenson County

12. Winnebago County


1. Cheyenne County

2. Decatur County

3. Ellis County

4. Ford County

5. Graham County

6. Logan County

7. Norton County

8. Rawlins County

9. Sheridan County

10. Sherman County

11. Smith County

12. Stafford County

13. Thomas County

14. Trego County

15. Wallace County


1. Allegany County


1. Olmsted County


1. Macon County


1. Arthur County

2. Banner County

3. Box Butte County

4. Buffalo County

5. Cherry County

6. Cheyenne County

7. Custer County

8. Dawes County

9. Deuel County

10. Garden County

11. Grant County

12. Hall County

13. Hitchcock County

14. Holt County

15. Hooker County

16. Keith County

17. Kimball County

18. Lincoln County

19. Loup County

20. Morrill County

21. Red Willow County

22. Scotts Bluff County

23. Sheridan County

24. Sioux County

New Mexico

1. Dona Ana County

2. Otero County

3. Socorro County

New York

1. Oneida County

North Dakota

1. Grant County

2. Sioux County


1. Blair County

2. Bedford County

South Dakota

1. Custer County

2. Fall River County

3. Lawrence County

4. Pennington County


1. El Paso County

2. Hudspeth County


1. Daggett County

2. Grand County

3. San Juan County

4. Sanpete County

5. Uintah County

6. Utah County


1. Frederick County

West Virginia

1. Hampshire County

2. Hardy County


1. Columbia County

2. Dane County

3. Grant County

4. Green County

5. Iowa County

6. Jefferson County

7. Juneau County

8. Kenosha County

9. Lafayette County

10. Portage County

11. Richland County

12. Rock County

13. Sauk County

14. Walworth County

15. Washburn County


1. Albany County

2. Big Horn County

3. Carbon County

4. Converse County

5. Crook County

6. Goshen County

7. Hot Springs County

8. Johnson County

9. Laramie County

10. Lincoln County

11. Natrona County

12. Niobrara County

13. Platte County

14. Sheridan County

15. Washakie County

16. Weston County

As of November 6, 2013, there were 128 counties in 18 states with reported CWD in free-ranging cervids (various ruminant animals).

Avoiding meat from those areas is prudent and I would not want to hunt even close since deer can roam miles beyond their usual range, especially when pursued by gun-toting humans.

Personally I try to avoid diseases which infect the brain and can’t be treated.

But you can learn a lot from the following.

Travel History, Hunting, and Venison Consumption Related to Prion Disease Exposure, 2006-2007 FoodNet Population Survey. (PDF – 182 KB) Abrams JY, Maddox RA, Harvey AR, et al. J Am Diet Assoc. 2011 Jun;111(6):858-63.

Survey assessment of the prevalence of travel to the United Kingdom and other European countries, hunting for deer or elk, and venison consumption in specific areas within the United States. The results of the survey are useful in determining the prevalence and frequency of behaviors that could be important factors for foodborne prion transmission (including chronic wasting disease).

Human Prion Diseases in the United States. Holman RC, Belay ED, Christensen KY, et al. PLoS One. 2010 Jan 1;5(1):e8521.

Description of the occurrence and epidemiology of CJD and vCJD in the United States. The low rate of CJD seen in the West is of particular interest due to the longstanding presence of chronic wasting disease among cervids in parts of that region.

Chronic wasting disease and potential transmission to humans. Belay E, Maddox R, Williams E, et al. EID. June 2004;10(6):977-84.

Overview of what is currently known about CWD in both captive and wild deer and elk in the United States. The article discusses transmission of CWD to other animals, as well at the epidemiologic and laboratory studies assessing the risk of CWD transmission to humans.

Fatal degenerative neurologic illnesses in men who participated in wild game feasts – Wisconsin, 2002. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2003;52:125-7.

Epidemiologic investigation to assess risk of possible CWD transmission to men who participated in wild game feasts from 1993-1999 in Wisconsin.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in unusually young patients who consumed venison. Belay ED, Gambetti P, Schonberger LB, et al. Arch Neurol. 2001;58:1673-8.

This report examines the possible transmission of CWD to humans.

Chronic wasting disease of elk: transmissibility to humans examined by transgenic mouse models. Kong Q, Huang S, Zou W, et al. Neurobiol Dis. 2005;25(35)7944-9.

This article indicates that there is a substantial species barrier for transmission of CWD from elks to humans.

Selected websites addressing CWD.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, CWD website

National Wildlife Health Center (USGS), CWD website

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, CWD website

Colorado Division of Wildlife, CWD website

Wyoming Game and Fish, CWD website

Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance

Animals can also carry Hepatitis A. Avoid.

Final cautions:

Don’t follow the old “blood” tradition for the first kill.

Don’t field dress carelessly.

Don’t leave waste from field dressing for scavengers.

When in the field carry your own supplies, one way many of these diseased are infected through a spread among the animal population via communal contaminated food plats and water – in other words, don’t drink the water!

Stick to the beer, preferably with the clip out and the chamber empty.