Milk River Montana: EHD Killing Deer "In Droves"

Disturbing text from a friend in northeastern Montana: Bad news, blue tongue killing deer in droves, call me…

I called and he said people who generally see 50-60 deer in a field or point are seeing 1 or 2. He said the owner of the property where we hunt has found some dead ones, including a buck staggering around with bloody tongue hanging out, near death. Others report dead deer “piled up.”

Bad stuff, but I can’t say I’m surprised. Last fall, there were more deer (and bucks) on the stretch of Milk I hunt than I have seen in 10 years. One morning we filmed more that 100  whitetails---maybe 150—coming back across a field to bed in the timber by the river. Too many really. 

Is this nature’s thinning?

Epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) is an infectious, fatal viral disease of primarily white-tailed deer. It's characterized by hemorrhaging, fever, foaming-at-mouth and an urge for infected deer to be near fresh water. EHD has caused significant die-offs over the years in the northern United States. Eighty to almost 100 percent of local herds have been wiped out! There had not been a significant outbreak of EHD in the area I hunt for years, so this is not shocking the locals, or me.

Sounds terrible, but officials won’t know how bad for a month or so. That’s when the first hard frost will kill the EHD-infected midges that bite the deer and spread the disease like fire through a herd.

Making matters worse, this outbreak comes on the heels of a brutal 2010 winter and huge spring flooding on the Milk, both of which surely killed some deer.

For now my Milk River hunt in late October is on hold. That sucks, because I am planning to bowhunt with my Versus buddy, Tred Barta. If there are still some deer around I want to go. I’ve always hunted good to great years on the Milk, why not film a show when the conditions and hunting are tough, and talk about why? That's the real world we hunt in. But I want Tred to kill one w/his longbow.


Curt's Gravatar EHD is brutal. It hit in SW Pa. a couple years ago. It devestated the herd where I used to hunt. It is starting to make a comeback, but I have not hunted there since then. My buddies were find finding deer in all the farm ponds & creeks. Couple that with the amount of does Pa. is allowing to be taken and the increase in coyotes, it was bad news for that area.
Hopefully, the flooding didn't do a lot of harm. At least the deer can move away from the rising waters, the heacy snow not so much. I hope it is possible to do the hunt with Tred. I always like watching that nutjob. He doesn't care what anyone thinks. It's his world. It's nice to see you supporting him. I get the feeling a lot of the new breed of TV guys can't handle his approach. Too bad really, cause he's about as old school as you can get. Your laid back personality & his "less than laid back" personality should make for an interesting show. Hope you can pull it off.
# Posted By Curt | 8/18/11 11:57 AM
Luke Strommen's Gravatar We haven't had a hard EHD outbreak since 2001, up to then we had it about every 4 years or so. Last year we lost a few, no significant number. We were due, it's just too bad it's this year after the record shattering winter we had and the die off associated with it. A few things about's easier to hunt 10 than 100, and their numbers spring back quick. I was sick to loose an entire season of shed hunting down the river and under feet of silt, so I guess this is appropriate for the horrible year the wildlife is having since last October.
# Posted By Luke Strommen | 8/18/11 12:38 PM
David in NC's Gravatar This has been going on in Montana and Wyoming for decades. The population seems to go in cycles until they are crammed in those riverbottoms or timbered ridges thick. Then EHD wipes out a bunch of them. What I've always wondered is why doesn't the state allow more deer to be taken so this doesn't happen? Yeah, I think this is nature's way of population correction, but why not allow more deer to be taken so they aren't wasted by the thousands due to disease? Maybe my thinking is incorrect, but the bag limits seem to be very tight. Unnecessarily so.
# Posted By David in NC | 8/18/11 12:54 PM
Dan Outler's Gravatar I agree with David from NC, It seem like it's such a waste. Why can't these states upper the bag limit to manage the deer herds? They could put a quota on each county where the hardest deer have been hit by this disease. Indiana has a one buck rule and a certain amount of does are aloud to be taken per county to keep the deer herds down and disease free and it seem to be working.
# Posted By Dan Outler | 8/18/11 1:52 PM
Cary Dion's Gravatar Mike, if you end up going to the Milk river with Barta, will you please tell him to do it the hard way and not the fluffy way he has been doing things!

I think that would make a great show, Tred is always entertaining.
# Posted By Cary Dion | 8/18/11 3:51 PM
Dean Weimer's Gravatar Yes, Hanback, this is nature's way of thinning the herd. Unfortunate as it seems, but the way it's intended. It will have a positive effect long term. Short term, not so much probably.
# Posted By Dean Weimer | 8/19/11 1:07 PM
Bill's Gravatar Whitetails are amazing. Numbers wise you are back in 2 years. Rack ---It takes 4 years to grow a big buck.
# Posted By Bill | 8/20/11 12:31 AM
Jim Ken's Gravatar It's really sounds terrible.
# Posted By Jim Ken | 8/23/11 4:51 AM
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# Posted By chloe | 9/26/11 6:07 AM
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# Posted By abercrombie uk | 11/23/11 11:36 PM