Half a million hunters are expected to take part in Minnesota’s firearms deer season that begins a half-hour before sunrise on Saturday, Nov. 4. “We have a great variety of hunting opportunities and deer populations have increased in recent years,” said Steve Merchant, wildlife populations and regulations manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Deer numbers are up following three years of conservative harvest regulations designed to rebuild the population, coupled with three relatively mild winters. The DNR anticipates the 2017 deer harvest will be in the 200,000 range, similar to the most recent 20-year average of nearly 206,000.
The DNR collects data on deer harvest by requiring all hunters to register deer before processing, before antlers are removed and within 48 hours after taking the animal. Hunters can register deer via phone, internet or in person. “Before each season we remind hunters to check this year’s regulations, especially details like when shooting hours are open, considering we set the clocks back when daylight saving time ends during opening weekend,” Merchant said. Hunters in some areas will be required to have their harvested deer tested for chronic wasting disease Nov. 4 and Nov. 5.
Precautionary testing will determine whether CWD may have spread from captive deer to wild deer in central and north-central Minnesota. Testing also is mandatory in southeastern Minnesota, the only location where CWD is known to be found in wild deer. Central Minnesota deer permit areas with mandatory testing are 218, 219, 229, 277, 283 and 285. North-central permit areas with mandatory testing are 155, 171, 172, 242, 246, 247, 248 and 249. Southeast deer permit areas affected are 343, 345, 346, 347, 348, 349 and 603.
Hunters not in a mandatory testing area can collect their own lymph node sample and submit it for testing to the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at the University of Minnesota for a fee. A video showing how to collect a lymph node sample and a link to the lab’s website are at mndnr.gov/cwdcheck. Deer hunting information can be found at mndnr.gov/hunting/deer and hunters can follow along on social media using #DeerCampMN. Hunting questions can be directed to the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.