Things to know about deer hunting season and COVID-19

Published: Nov. 16, 2021 at 12:17 PM EST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV/Gray News) – Health officials are reminding deer hunters to make sure their own health is up to snuff before they take to the woods.

According to WMTV, health officials at the University of Wisconsin say getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and influenza is the first line of defense. They also advise to get a booster shot if you’re eligible.

“If someone comes to deer camp and they have COVID and other folks aren’t vaccinated, in that enclosed space with the laughing and good times that are had, the likelihood that those other hunters would be infected is pretty high,” said Dr. Jeff Pothof, UW Health emergency medicine physician, chief quality officer, and associate professor of emergency medicine at UW School of Medicine and Public Health.

There have been reports by the USDA that some white-tailed deer in 32 counties across Illinois, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania had contracted COVID-19.

Another study published by bioRxiv, that has not yet been peer reviewed, found COVID-19 exposure in white-tailed deer in Iowa.

Researchers with the USDA don’t know how exactly the deer were exposed, but said it is possible that transmission was through people, other deer, other animals, or the environment.

According to the USDA, there is no evidence that animals can spread COVID-19 to humans, nor that a human could get the virus from eating or harvesting animal meat.

Pothof said the risk of a hunter contracting COVID-19 from a deer is low.

“This is all speculation, there’s obviously no studies on any of this stuff, but I think the biggest risk to deer hunters is going to be other hunters, not so much the deer,” Pothof said.

Pothof added it’s important to be mindful of your own physical health, noting that many hunters every year have heart attacks from overexerting themselves in the rough terrain.

Another common reason people end up in the emergency room during deer hunting season, Pothof said, is from falling out of tree stands. Before climbing up into a tree stand, make sure it’s structurally sound and that you’re connected by a safety harness.

Also be sure to follow gun safety rules, as accidental shootings between hunters and other humans happen almost every year and can be deadly.

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