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Taking down the tree stands at Camp See No Deer at the end of another archery season always gets us in the mood to look back on the hunting and think about seasons to come.

Reflection took on a different tone when we packed up our stands last week. Chronic wasting disease has reared its ugly head in Arkansas. The state's elk and deer could take a drastic hit.

It's painful to follow the news coverage of the disease that centered in Newton County after an elk killed during hunting season near Pruitt was confirmed to have it. Now, some 300 deer and elk are having to be killed for tissue samples so the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission can determine the extent of the problem. There's no way to test live deer or elk for chronic wasting disease, a malady that is always fatal to the animal. There is no danger to humans, experts tell us.

For us at Camp See No Deer, the mood is one of helplessness. There is really nothing any of us can do about it except stay informed, keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best as this plays out. From what we read, it seems the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is doing what it can to determine the extent of the disease in our deer and elk.

We wonder what's in store. So do so many others who enjoy seeing deer and elk, photographing them and marveling at their grace. What will become of the elk herd in Boxley Valley and the rest of the Buffalo River country where elk roam? Will there be fewer deer to see and hunt? Will there be an elk season in Arkansas next fall, or ever?

Camp See No Deer is many miles west of Newton County, but we bowhunters wonder. Will there come a day when we really won't see any deer at our beloved hunting spot.

Chronic wasting disease has been found in states all around us, including Missouri. It was almost a given that the disease would be discovered in Arkansas. So much so that Game and Fish developed a plan to deal with it several years ago, before it showed up. They're now implementing that plan.

Several states with confirmed chronic wasting diseases still have good deer hunting. Missouri's total deer harvest for 2015-2016 was 279,396.

Facts about chronic wasting disease are outlined on the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission website, www.agfc.com. Public meetings that have been held around the region can be viewed on You Tube. We at Camp See No Deer are eagerly watching.

.... There's better news about another revered wild creature, the bald eagle. Visitors to Beaver Lake may not have seen as many this winter as in past years, but not to worry. Fewer eagles migrated to our region this winter because there wasn't much ice and snow up north to cause as many eagles to fly south, said Alan Bland, park ranger with the Army Corps of Engineers at Beaver Lake.

The corps takes a count during mid-January of the bald eagles at Beaver Lake. It's done over two days when bald eagle numbers are at their peak on the reservoir.

Most years, rangers count 100 to 200 bald eagles or more. This year the count was 50 eagles.

Still, passengers on eagle watch cruises at Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area saw a fair number of bald eagles on the tours, park officials report. Eagle cruises have ended for this year but will resume next fall.

Flip Putthoff can be reached at fputthoff@nwadg.com or on Twitter @NWAFlip

Sports on 03/15/2016

Print Headline: Disease has hunters pondering future

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