By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

COLBY -- It was a massive buck, but it was no easy task for Matt Bain to bring it home.

It was smart and cagey -- just what it takes to grow to be 51βΡ2 years old with a massive rack that would be the envy of most any deer hunter.

Bain finally got his quarry on Nov. 11, 2009, in Rawlins County.

He first spotted it about a month earlier, drawing Bain back on more than one occasion.

"He was a wily buck that never showed himself," Bain said. "He was one of the smartest I've ever hunted."

It was also the "biggest weight-wise and size-wise that' I've ever taken."

The buck was so massive, he said, its neck measured 28 inches around.

"He was a real large deer," Bain said.

He was also infected with chronic wasting disease, an always-fatal brain-wasting disease.

"I had no reason to think he would have had chronic wasting disease by any means," Bain said.

That's because the animal was the exact opposite of the emaciated, confused animal that's typically shown to be suffering from the disease.

It's a twisted turn of events because Bain is the district wildlife biologist for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks and deals with the ravages of CWD on a regular basis.

That's especially true during the state's firearms deer season, which opens Dec. 1.

Bain, as it turned out, bagged one of the 15 deer that tested positive last year.

While he never would have suspected the deer might have been suffering from CWD, he had followed the advice he frequently gives to other people who bring in animals for testing: He boned out the animal and put it in his freezer.

It sat there, untouched until he learned -- nearly 60 days later -- that his deer was among the 15 that tested positive.

He then disposed of the animal at the local landfill, another recommendation from KDWP.

That's not always possible, he notes, but it's important to properly dispose of deer infected with CWD, just as it's important to properly dispose of deer carcasses -- either at landfills or by burying them where they were killed.

No one, he cautioned, should transfer deer carcasses because of the threat from CWD.

Bain must actually walk a fine line when it comes to CWD.

By day, he's the area wildlife biologist for the state's wildlife agency. When he's off work, he's a hunter, hailing from a long line of people who hunt deer. The two mesh seamlessly, however.

"It's a new disease and there's a lot uncertainty about it," he said of CWD.

But the disease is here, and it's probably gong to be here forever, he said, slowly spreading to the south and east as time wears on.

Tracking its progress allows the state -- and hunters -- to see how prevalent the disease is and where it is.

"It's a matter of being concerned about our deer resources," Bain said. "The only way you can do anything is to know it's there."

That's why he hopes hunters will continue to use the state's voluntary, and free, CWD testing program.

"I think everyone should be interested in participating in this sort of thing," he said.

Bain did and disposed of the meat from the infected deer soon after he learned the test came back positive.

While he's quick to point out the test isn't designed as a food-safety test, as there's no indication the disease can spread to humans, it's a simple safeguard.

"I hadn't consumed any of it," he said. "When I learned, I disposed of it in the landfill."

Bain, incidentally, didn't go without venison.

"It's a good thing I participated in doe harvest so I wouldn't go without," he said. "There's still venison in the freezer."

Not everyone views the CWD testing program in such a friendly light.

There are those who simply don't want their deer tested. That way, they don't know if the deer has CWD -- something of an ignorance-is-bliss rationale.

"There's concerns about it," Bain said of the approach taken by some hunters. "But it's an extra hassle to get the deer tested."

That's why Bain and others in KDWP urge hunters to bone out a deer where it's killed. If the carcass can't be disposed of in a landfill, or buried, then it's best to leave it where it was killed.

KDWP's new photo check system is designed to make it easier to leave a carcass where it falls.

But along the way, Bain learned so much more.

"I generally don't have enough money to mount deer," he said. "I usually boil them myself and do a European mount."

That's where he boils away all the flesh and meat, leaving only the skull and antlers.

"So then I had a mess to clean up," he said.

The prions responsible for CWD are known to persist in the environment.

"So I went back and cleaned everything I could with 50 percent bleach and water," he said.

Even though it came as something of a shock to Bain when he learned his monster buck was infected with CWD, he had considered that possibility along his deer-hunting ventures.

"I used to think about it," he said of the prospects of killing a CWD-infected deer. "The thing is we come from a deer hunting family."