Conservation

Year in Review: ATA’s Deer Protection Program Goes Full-Speed Ahead

The ATA’s Deer Protection Program launched in June 2016. Now, one year later, the program includes 21 scent manufacturers and covers over 95 percent of scent products on the market.
Photo Credit: Ryan Kirby/ATA

Author: Cassie Scott

The Archery Trade Association’s year-old Deer Protection Program enters its second year going full-speed ahead.

The program helps ATA-member scent manufacturers and their product suppliers prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease and ensure the health of wild deer herds. That’s why the ATA is spreading the message that the Deer Protection Program is here to help.

CWD is a contagious neurological disease that affects deer, elk and moose in the United States and Canada. The disease is transmitted by infectious proteins called prions, which differ from a virus or bacteria. Prion-related diseases are 100 percent fatal and cannot be treated in cervid populations. CWD is often difficult to diagnose, persists in the environment indefinitely, and poses a serious threat to white-tailed deer, the nation’s No. 1 big-game animal.

Biologists and hunters have long suggested that urine-based scent products could contribute to CWD’s spread if the fluids came from an infected source. Once CWD is established and disease rates escalate, deer numbers could tumble and decrease hunting opportunities. And although CWD has never been linked to human versions of the disease, hunters and their families are cautioned not to eat meat from CWD-infected game animals.

Scent manufacturers enrolled in the ATA Deer Protection program can display the ATA’s “Seal of Participation” label on scent products that originate from facilities participating in the program.

Even though the odds of transmitting CWD with scent products is low and unproven, the ATA worked with ATA-member scent manufacturers, urine providers and state wildlife agency staff to impose restrictions and guidelines for urine-production facilities and scent manufacturers to follow. These guidelines reduce CWD risk factors as much as possible.

Their solution: The Deer Protection Program.

This program ensures that participating scent manufacturers use urine only from facilities that take steps and follow procedures to reduce the potential of CWD infecting their deer herds.

“The ATA and our members are committed to maintaining healthy wild deer herds, and we fully understand the impact CWD can have,” said Mitch King, ATA’s director of government relations. “The program is an industry-driven solution to concerns that suggest urine-based scents might contribute to CWD’s spread.”

Since the program’s 2016 launch, all urine-based scent products sold to retailers by participating scent manufacturers carry the ATA’s “Seal of Participation.”

“This seal tells the consumer (hunters) that the urine in the bottle came from facilities participating in the ATA’s Deer Protection Program,” King said. “As our outreach efforts grow, hunters should become more confident in using this product because they’ll know they’re not contributing to CWD’s spread.”

But first, more information and education are needed.

“A lot of members in our retail community don’t know what the seal means,” King said. “So, if a customer asks, the retailer likely couldn’t answer. We need to educate them so they can relay that message to buyers. We want hunters to only buy and use scents carrying the ATA seal.”

To boost its marketing and outreach efforts, the ATA created an informational poster (above) for archery shops to hang on their walls and educate customers about scents carrying the ATA seal.

To boost its marketing and outreach efforts, the ATA created an informational poster for archery shops to hang on their walls. The team handed them out at the 2017 ATA Trade Show, sent them to scent manufacturers to distribute to customers, and made them available to retailers upon request.

With 21 scent manufacturers in the program, the program covers over 95 percent of scent products on the market. And that number keeps growing. King said when smaller scent manufacturers hear about the program, most express great interest in joining.

Besides working with manufacturers to grow the program, the ATA also works with state wildlife agencies to address concerns about program oversight.

“Most state agencies support the program, but some remain guarded,” King said. “The ATA is putting together an ‘oversight advisory working group’ to help the ATA oversee and improve the program. We hope state wildlife agencies will become more comfortable with this program. We also hope discussions of regulatory bans on urine-based scents will be replaced with outreach efforts that encourage hunters to use scent products with the ATA ‘checkmark’ Seal of Participation.”

Retailers interested in displaying a poster in their shop should contact the ATA business office at (866) 266-2776.

Scent manufacturers interested in joining the Deer Protection Program should contact Scott Gieseke at scottgieseke@archerytrade.org.

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