Managing Hunting after an EHD Outbreak

Luke from OH asks,

Hi Bill, Good luck to you this year! I am from midwest OH and we are currently struggling with EHD outbreak. I know you have had your fair share of experience with this in Iowa. My question is what is the best way to deal with it from a deer management aspect? Do you just not shoot any deer so genetics can still spread? Where we are there is a lot of flat land with ag fields and small parcels of woods from 5-30 acres. Management is tough but somehow every year some new big ones show up and we have some great bucks. 4-5 shooters that I was after this year have been found dead unfortunately. Definitely not the way I wanted the season to start and not sure the best approach for the rest of the year.

Bill responds,

Topic: Managing Hunting after an EHD Outbreak:

EHD Outbreak

We lost a lot of really good bucks to the EHD outbreak in 2012. It took the farm a long time to recover. As tempting as it is, you need to lay off shooting younger bucks while waiting for older age bucks to recover in huntable numbers.


Yes, unfortunately, I have some experience with this. I had three outbreaks during the 18 years I owned the farm in southern Iowa. Only one of them was really bad – 2012.  We lost most of our bucks in 2012. I bet at least 75 % of them.  It took a long time to bounce back. 

My advice would be to go ahead and shoot any older age bucks that still exist while letting the younger ones gain another year or two.  That might mean not shooting a buck, but it doesn’t mean you can’t try.  There is no reason not to shoot an older buck now, just because a lot of other ones died.  It would be a mistake, I think, to start shooting younger ones just because there are so few older ones. 

That’s what happened in my neighborhood. My neighbors were not really deer management people (not most of them anyway). They keep shooting bucks even though there were way less of them and instead of passing the younger ones, they just shot them instead of the older ones. That’s the main reason it took so long to recover.

It is tough. EHD is a really bad thing for whitetail hunting. I hope someday someone comes up with a way to prevent deer from getting it, but I have not seen much good news on that front.  Good luck. (10/9/22)


Comments (3)

  1. Luke

    Thanks for your response Bill. One thing I forgot to add is. Why do you think it seems to take out older mature bucks rather than the younger deer? At least that seems to be what is happening in our area.

  2. Garrett

    Hey Bill.

    Some napkin math makes it seems like EHD hit you every six years so are my suspicions of it taking about four years to rebound correct? Sadly I share the same “have to use my tags” neighbors in Ohio and we were just hit last year with a pretty bad (EHD) outbreak. I havent seen a mature buck yet this year but have seen far too many two and three year old kill pics.

    Thanks for what you do and share.

    1. Bill Winke

      Garrett, I thought it hit roughly once every 7 years, but that is splitting hairs. It takes more than 4 years to bounce back because a certain percentage of the buck herd were 6 and older. It may be shorter if the outbreak isn’t bad. Some of them were pretty mild and I barely noticed them, while others (like 2012) pretty much wiped out my bucks. It is bad stuff and it will be really nice when someone comes out with a way to beat it. Good luck.

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