Drurys Rebuilding Herd
Hard hit by EHD, Mark and Terry fight to get deer herd back on feet
As the opening season of Drury Outdoors’ new show on Outdoor Channel, Drury’s THIRTEEN, winds to a close, viewers are now starting to put to use the details and techniques learned from the show as their respective white-tailed deer hunting seasons begin.
And, with the start of production for Season 2 of the show, otherwise known as deer season in Missouri and Iowa, brothers Mark and Terry Drury again face the season-long search for trophy bucks while maintaining and strengthening their herd for future seasons.
Recently, that has meant an ongoing struggle against a deadly deer disease that has struck most of the Midwest and decimated much of the deer herd on the Drurys’ farms.
For the past two years, the Drurys’ deer herds have been hit by Epizootic hemorrhagic disease. In 2012, Mark estimated that more than 70 percent of his main herd on his Iowa farm had fell victim to EHD.
“That’s a herd we’re been managing for 15 years,” Mark said last year. “We lost a bunch of nice, really big bucks.”
Drury’s THIRTEEN details for hunters and land managers how to properly handle the variety of situations that can affect the health of a deer herd and how they can preserve and eventually harvest a prize buck. The season is broken into thirteen phases, and a phase is broken down and explained in each episode.
The Drurys, who have suffered through EHD outbreaks on their properties, offer tactics to battle it on their Outdoor Channel show Drury’s THIRTEEN. (Courtesy Drury Outdoors)
The Drurys offer their decades of hunting and herd managing expertise in providing solutions to problems that arise. One of the chief elements of this season’s show was the ongoing fight against EHD and its effects.
“We both got hit two years consecutively with EHD,” Terry said over the summer. “Boy, when it hit, it made it really tough on us. We’re hoping that this year will be different, but there are no guarantees.”Thankfully, the news in 2014 is improving.
“So far, so good,” said Mark, who killed a large buck on the Missouri farm on the first day of archery season in September. “I haven’t seen any signs of it. But the damage was done in 2012 and 2013. It reduced the herd down to such a number, there’s not as many to die so it’s harder to notice if any of them have.
“I haven’t found any (diseased or dead deer), nor have I heard of anybody else finding any, I’ll put it that way. But I do think we’re in better shape.”
Nearly always fatal, EHD strikes deer in times of drought. A lack of rainfall drives deer to congregate near fewer remaining water sources, usually stagnant standing water. There, they can be bitten by a midge, the small flying insect that transmits the illness.
“Once that midge deposits the larvae and they start to regenerate, it’s nearly impossible to get rid of them,” Terry said. “It’s like ticks or mosquitos or june bugs or any other little critter. They just don’t go away.”
But the drought that has maintained a stranglehold on much of the South and the Midwest over the past several years lessened considerably in the summer of 2014, a fact that did not go unnoticed by the Drurys.
“I feel like overall rainfall this summer versus the last two is definitely the determining factor,” Mark said.
However, after two years of devastating losses, the Drurys also felt they could and should do more than simply waiting for Mother Nature to drop more rain.
Mark Drury took this mule deer in Alberta, Canada. He called it the biggest deer he ever killed. (Courtesy Drury Outdoors)
Starting last winter, they began utilizing a supplemental feeding program for their herds. Since last fall, Mark said he has used more than eight tons of Anilogic’s Supplemental 365.
“The company was founded by a bunch veterinarians and biologists that specialize with infectious diseases within rumens,” Mark said. “They have developed a kind of a health and wellness all-around feed that will help the deer fight off the secondary things that they get when they contract EHD.
“I fed it all off season, trying to keep my herd as healthy as I can, and I’m going to continue to do that. I really like the research this group did. They feel as if they can really reduce the effects of it.”
During the first season of Drury’s THIRTEEN, the Drurys also attempted to keep tabs on the disease within their herds through camera surveys. The surveys continue this year.“There’s really no way to keep a count, but we go by our cameras,” Terry said. “The number of bucks we see, the inch class and the structure … we keep a pretty close tally. You’re not going to catch them all, but for the most part we know. Almost every buck on our farms, when we harvest them we have a picture of them.”
The fight against EHD and the rebuilding of the Drury herds were a chief element on the first season of Drury’s THIRTEEN and will continue to be so this fall in the second year of filming.
“We talk about it a tremendous amount on the show,” Terry said. “We circle back to it with regularity because that’s really what we’re all about, harvesting those mature animals. And if they’re not there – if that upper age class, that structure is out of the herd – it makes it extremely difficult for us.
“Those are the ones we are targeting. If they are not there, you can’t just reproduce them or rebuild them. It takes time.”
The setbacks brought on by EHD have been heartbreaking, Terry said. But he also said they have discovered that the survivors seem to be stronger in their abilities to counteract the disease.
“Now we’re watching a lot of these younger deer, and it almost takes a while for their immune system to build up to where they can withstand the diseases,” he said. “The ones who have come through it are extremely healthy. The ones that don’t just kind of fade away and you may find them during shed season and you may not.”