Letter Re: Hunting and Trapping Hazards

Mr. Rawles:
All the talk about snares and traps and hunting… You’d better inform people about the proper precautions concerning RABIES in wild game. – Tamara

JWR Replies: Yes, you are right. There are risks involved with hunting and trapping. But there are also risks involved with walking down a city street, or buying potato salad at your local delicatessen, or picking berries in bear country. As with anything else in life you need to weigh cost/benefit ratios, and learn to take appropriate precautions.

Here are some basic precautions about hunting, trapping, and handling raw meat: 

Always wash your hands very thoroughly after gutting, skinning, butchering, or otherwise handling any raw meat–store bought, home raised, or taken in the field. Never touch your hands to your mouth, eyes, or nose until after that washing.

Use great care not to cut yourself or your helper(s) while handling raw meat.

Use separate, designated, and preferably color coded cutting boards for meat versus all fruits, vegetables, and other foods.

Be careful not to pick up ticks from wild game.  I carry an aerosol can of “Off” insect repellent whenever I hunt. I spray my arms and legs before reaching down to bleed out a deer or elk.  Then right after that, I spray the entire carcass thoroughly and wait a full ten minutes before dragging it about 20 feet and then gutting it out.  (BTW, I’ve found that that same ten minutes is a good chance to sit down and thank God for His blessings.) Lyme disease is widespread. Odds are that deer ticks and brush ticks will be carrying it.

Don’t trap skunks for food unless you are absolutely desperate or starving. Rabies is endemic in both striped and spotted North American skunk populations.

Tularemia is is endemic in wild rabbits. The old sayings about inspecting rabbit livers for abnormalities is just an Old Wives’ Tale.  (It is not a reliable indicator of Tularemia infection.) However, if you do see white cyst-like spots on a rabbit liver, then the rabbit is almost certainly infected, and and should be discarded.

Cook all meat–regardless of its source–very thoroughly. And then be careful not to cut the cooked meat with the same dirty knife that you used before cooking.

Never hunt any animal that its not acting alert and lively. If  you find that an animal that you’ve shoot looks like it is in poor health, leave it lay for the scavengers.

A little common sense goes a long way. (OBTW, the encyclopedia references above are courtesy of  Wikipedia.)