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DEER SEASON NOTEBOOK: CWD testing a focus in parts of Minnesota

BEMIDJI, Minn. — Testing deer for chronic wasting disease will be a focus for Department of Natural Resources staff in several permit areas in north-central, central and southeast Minnesota when the firearms season opens Saturday, Nov. 4, officials say.

"That's going to occupy a lot of our staff for the first few days of deer season," said John Williams, Northwest Region wildlife supervisor for the DNR in Bemidji. "Just about everybody in wildlife is going to be wearing that hat on the opener and the next couple of days (after that)."

Precautionary testing from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 4, to Sunday, Nov. 5, will determine whether chronic wasting disease may have spread from captive deer to wild deer in central and north-central Minnesota.

Central Minnesota deer permit areas with mandatory testing are 218, 219, 229, 277, 283 and 285. North-central Minnesota deer permit areas with mandatory testing are 155, 171, 172, 242, 246, 247, 248 and 249.

Testing in north-central and central Minnesota became necessary after CWD was found in multiple captive deer on farms near Merrifield in Crow Wing County and Litchfield in Meeker County. Test results will determine whether CWD may have passed from these captive deer to wild deer.

Deer shot in southeast Minnesota permit areas 343, 345, 346, 347, 348 and 349 also are subject to mandatory testing on Nov. 4-5 because they are adjacent to Permit Area 603, the only area of Minnesota currently known to have CWD-infected wild deer.

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Managing hunters

It's not well-known, but among 13 Midwestern states, only Missouri manages deer populations at a finer spatial scale than Minnesota.

"We are serious about managing expectations and deer numbers in small geographic areas," DNR wildlife chief Paul Telander said. "Still, it is common to have a wide variety of opinions in each area on whether there should be more, fewer or different sized deer.

"To that point, we recently conducted a hunter satisfaction survey, and one of the findings is that today's hunters have higher expectations than those who hunted just 10 years ago."

Did you know?

• Deer hunters in Minnesota should register deer before processing, before antlers are removed and within 48 hours after taking the animal. Registration is mandatory and can be done with a phone call, online or in person. Before registering a deer, hunters must validate their site tag. The validated tag must be attached to the deer when the deer is placed on a motor vehicle or an ATV, a vehicle or a trailer being towed by an ATV or brought into a camp, yard or other place of habitation.

• Adult female white-tailed deer weigh about 145 pounds and males weigh about 170 pounds.

• The biggest whitetail recorded in Minnesota was a 500-pound buck.

• A whitetail's home range is about 1 square mile.

• About 70 percent of Minnesota's firearms deer harvest typically occurs during the first three or four days of the season.

• The average hunter spends five days afield during Minnesota's firearms deer season.

• In total, the DNR sold about 604,000 deer hunting licenses and permits (all types) in 2016.

• The three primary types of deer hunting seasons are firearm, muzzleloader and archery.

• Deer are the No. 1 hunted species in Minnesota, and deer hunters along with other hunters and wildlife watchers together contribute more than $1.3 billion each year to the economy.

• With nearly 500,000 firearms deer hunters in the state, the DNR encourages hunters to buy their licenses early to avoid long lines and any potential system issues associated with the high sales volume.

• Deer hunts will take place at several state parks during the upcoming firearms deer season, including Hayes Lake, Itasca, Lake Bemidji, Lake Bronson, Old Mill and Zippel Bay in northwest Minnesota. Access at the six parks will be limited, and visitors should check for hunt-related information at the park office when they arrive, look carefully for hunt-related signage and follow instructions. More info:

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