Jimmy Blake, Robert Dukes winners of LDWF CWD Sampling Contest for 2022-23 hunting season

Taxidermist Robert Dukes of Hineston. (Photo courtesy LDWF)

Jimmy Blake, Jr. of Lake Charles and Robert Dukes of Hineston were the winners of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) chronic wasting disease (CWD) sampling contest held during the 2022-23 hunting season.

Blake, who harvested the contest eligible buck in Vernon Parish, won a $1,000 gift card for submitting his sample. Dukes, a taxidermist in Rapides Parish, was awarded a $500 gift card for submitting the winning sample in the taxidermist category. The prizes in the drawing were made possible by the South Louisiana Branch of the National Deer Association.

Hunters and taxidermists who submitted samples from qualifying bucks were entered into a drawing for the gift cards. All submitted samples were tested for CWD, assisting LDWF with its surveillance monitoring for the disease, which is 100 percent fatal in deer. Sample submission is voluntary and requires hunter consent.

Blake harvested the buck on Clear Creek WMA in Vernon Parish. The memorable part of the hunt included sharing the post-harvest experience with his stepson, as well as seeing all of the other successful hunters at the check station. Like many WMA hunters, Blake was happy to assist LDWF with surveillance of the disease.

Buck harvested by Jimmy Blake Jr. of Lake Charles. (Photo courtesy LDWF)

Dukes has assisted LDWF with CWD sampling for the past two years. When LDWF approached Dukes for assistance, he volunteered without hesitation. He is not only an award-winning taxidermist but also an avid outdoorsman. His assistance helped LDWF meet its sample quotas in central Louisiana.

“The expertise and attention to detail possessed by all participating taxidermists has resulted in high quality samples that provide viable test results,’’ LDWF Deer Program Manager Johnathan Bordelon said.

“We thank all of the hunters and taxidermists who assisted us,’’ said LDWF Secretary Jack Montoucet. “And a special thanks to the South Louisiana Branch of the National Deer Association for the gift cards. They have been a long-time partner in promoting wildlife conservation, research and outreach. Their advocacy made this contest a success.’’

CWD is a fatal neurologic disease. Louisiana became the 29th state to detect CWD in January of 2022. Since that time, 12 CWD positive deer have been detected, all within Tensas Parish. Statewide surveillance for the disease totaled more than 2,300 samples during the 2022-23 deer season. Continued sampling is vital to LDWF’s surveillance of the disease.

The disease is spread by contact with infected saliva, blood, urine, feces, food, water, and soil. It can be transmitted from live animals or carcasses and creates holes in the brain tissue of infected animals. Infection with CWD can occur in deer of any sex and age but higher infection rates are typically noted in mature bucks.

Symptoms can show 16 months or more after infection. Those symptoms include weight loss, excessive salivation, teeth grinding, head tremors, difficulty swallowing, excessive urination and thirst, incoordination, splay leg stance, lowered head and ears, fixed stare, fainting and lack of awareness.

For more information on CWD, go to https://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/page/cwd.