Tom Wiest is a long time columnist on all matters outdoors. He welcomes news, questions and comments from readers.

Once again, our late summer is very hot and very dry — bad news for deer. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is receiving reports of dead deer in scattered areas of the state. The timing and details of the reports are all indicative of hemorrhagic disease (HD). HD occurs at varying levels of severity each year in white-tailed deer herds. The catch-all term for this disease is hemorrhagic disease (HD). Epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) and bluetongue are closely related viruses that fall under the umbrella of HD.

In 2017 HD was moderately severe in East Tennessee and some other areas in the Appalachian region. The last major outbreak of HD in Tennessee was in 2007 and involved virtually all of the state. Kentucky also had a severe outbreak in 2007.

HD is caused by a virus that is transmitted to deer from biting midges (gnats) or “no-see-ums.” It is not transmitted from deer to deer by contact. The virus causes fever, respiratory distress, and swelling of the neck or tongue. Not all deer exposed to the virus will die, but those that do usually do so within five to 10 days of exposure, often seeking water as they try to cool their bodies from the fever; they may appear lethargic and fearless of people. Incidences of HD usually peaks around mid-September and are usually done by mid-October with the onset of cold weather.

Often when HD becomes epidemic — the word is epizootic in animals — it is called EHD. It has been in the United States for more than 60 years; it does not affect people or pets. It should be noted that HD and EHD have nothing to do with chronic wasting disease (CWD), which is caused by a neurological prion and is incurable.

FIRST TIMERS: Here is a special opportunity for young hunters who have never taken a deer. A free hunt at Buffalo Ridge Refuge in deer-rich Humphreys County (Unit L) has been arranged again by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency for Oct. 26, the opening day for the statewide youth deer hunt. Hunters age 10-16 with a hunter education certificate and accompanied by a non-hunting adult are eligible. A total of 30 licenses will be issued. Last year 18 of 30 hunters took their first deer.

There will be a free Friday night cookout and campout (participants must have their own camping gear), or hotels are nearby. Breakfast and lunch will also be served on Saturday. Treestands will be provided including three that are handicap accessible. The Unit L bag limit is one buck per day and three does per day.

Registration deadline is Oct. 15, when the lottery drawing will be held. Selected hunters will be notified by Oct. 18. Applications and more information are available on the TWRA website, by phoning Don Hosse at 615-781-6541, or by email to Applications can be mailed to TWRA, Youth Deer Hunt Giveaway, P.O. Box 40747, Nashville, TN 37204; or faxed to 615-781-6543.

FLYING FUR: The Tennessee Fur Harvesters fall convention will be Oct. 4-6 at Fall Creek Falls State Park, Groupe Camp #2. Newcomers, veteran trappers and their families will enjoy the many seminars, contests, games and activities, live entertainment, storytellers and supply vendors.

Tent camping and primitive cabins are available. For more information contact John Daniel at, or call 423-595-0986 or see the website and select TFHA Annual Convention.

TROUT: The largest annual trout tournament in the Smokies, the 21st Smoky Mountains Trout Tournament, will take place on the weekend of Oct. 5-6 on 20 miles of the Little Pigeon River in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville. At least 10,000 trout are stocked immediately prior to the event.

The top prizes will be $250 for the largest trout and $250 for the smallest trout. Other prizes will include trophies for the top three anglers in four divisions, cash awards, fishing equipment, and gift certificates to restaurants, hotels, and local attractions.

The entry fees are $25 for one day or $40 for both days. Cash prizes will go to the four divisions of adults and youths, both locals and tourists. Register or get more information at, or call Rocky Top Outfitters at 865-661-3474.

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