DNR releases deer management plan, changes for 2019 hunting season

By: 
Jordan Gerard

Hunters should take extra care to read the regulations book this year as new changes affect southeast Minnesota’s hunting zones. 

Changes to the 2019 hunting season regulations and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ deer management plan were discussed at the open house meeting in Houston on Tuesday, Aug. 27.

Perhaps the biggest change in general is the new Deer Permit Area (DPA) numbers for the whole area. The new numbers are 643, 645, 646, 647, 648, 649 and 655 (formerly 345, 346, 347, 348, 349 and parts of 255 and 343).

The newest changes for archery, firearm and muzzleloader seasons include the cancellation of the 4-point rule, except in permit areas 338, 339, 341 and 342. Legal bucks have one antler at least three inches long. Button bucks are not legal. Antlerless deer are deer without an antler at least three inches long.

Party hunting, or cross-tagging, for an antlered buck is now allowed in all deer permit areas except for 338, 339, 341 and 342. 

The prohibition on deer feeding and attractants has been expanded into more counties in southeast Minnesota, which still includes Houston and Fillmore counties.

A person may use a dog to retrieve a wounded deer or bear (see page 61 of the regulations book for more information).

Crossbows are no longer required to have a 30-inch stock to be legal for hunting.

The youth season will be held statewide on Oct. 17 to 20 this year. Youth ages 10-17 may participate. An adult/mentor/guardian must accompany youth ages 10-13 at all times during the hunt.

Bag limit is one deer. Youth can use their regular license to take an antlerless deer in any deer permit area except those designated as “bucks-only.”

A bonus permit can be used to take antlerless deer in any permit area where bonus permits are allowed during firearms season.

Area specific rules

If you hunt in DPAs 643, 645, 646, 647, 648, 649 and 255, those areas are known as the Southeast Management Zone. 

Mandatory chronic wasting disease (CWD) testing is still required for all seasons, every day, whereas last year only included the first two days of firearm A and B seasons. The deer must be presented for testing on the same day of harvest.

Carcass movement restrictions still apply during all seasons, including fawns.

Hunters can purchase an unlimited number of disease management tags for $2.50 each for antlerless deer. 

New this year, hunters can harvest up to three legal bucks per year (one per license – archery, firearms, muzzleloader).

Antler point restrictions are canceled in the southeast management zone.

Statewide A or late-season B firearms license may be used during any firearms season. Firearms season for deer in the southeast management zone will be Nov. 9-17 for buck season (A) and Nov. 23-Dec. 1 for doe season (B).

Archery season begins Sept. 14 and ends Dec. 31. Muzzleloader season begins Nov. 30 and ends Dec. 15.

CWD

MN DNR representative Brandon Schaps fielded questions for two hours on Tuesday, ranging from CWD-based questions to new suggestions such as tax incentives for landowners to allow hunting on their property.

On the CWD side of things, about 50 positive cases have been found in the southeast region of the state since first discovering CWD in 2002. 

However, the DNR’s goal is to fulfill its obligation of keeping a healthy deer herd by keeping the prevalence and spread of CWD low.

CWD has been found in young bucks as young as a year and a half old. 

The DNR is not sure when or how long research might take to discover the cause of CWD or a worthwhile cure.

“What we’re hoping not to see is the disease jumping into new areas,” he said. “We know deer move to some degree, but we’re hoping to minimize the spread and won’t see a rapid spread of it.”

Other states with known cases of CWD like Wisconsin have implemented different plans. Wisconsin has 40% prevalence of CWD in its deer, yet they do not have rigorous regulations like Minnesota. Schaps said each state is dealing with it in its own way.

A well-known scientist, Bryan Richards, will be speaking about CWD at Rushford-Peterson High School on Sept. 19. Look for more details pertaining to that event soon.

“What we’re trying to do is slow the spread and buy time,” Schaps added. “We’re hoping someone can come up with a solution in a laboratory that’s a more permanent solution.”

The DNR is also worried that if more deer turn up ill, less people will be interested in hunting, thus resulting in a decrease for licenses, recreation and tourism.

But this year the DNR expects to receive a “huge” amount of sampling, with CWD testing required all season long in all three seasons. 

While some testing stations will be manned, others will not be. A barrel, forms and equipment will be provided in order for hunters to submit their deer for testing. Instructions will be provided at the site.

As for trophy bucks, the DNR recommends hunters register the deer, take it to the taxidermist and allow them to take the antlers off first, and then take the deer to be sampled. Some taxidermists may be trained on how to take samples and submit them to the DNR.

Adopt-a-Dumpster

The DNR will also help with carcass disposal by providing dumpsters at various locations in the management zone.

In doing so, the goal is to limit the number of prions left on the landsacpe and transferred to other organisms, reduce potential spread of CWD, buy time for research to catch up and aid hunters in complying with carcass movement restrictions.

The DNR believes the dumpster program is one of the most important ways that hunters can help stop the spread of this disease.

Hunters can also help by monitoring a dumpster to keep the area clean and alerting DNR staff if additional pick ups are need beyond the regular schedule of three days a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday).

A few locations will have a tripod and basic supplies to help hunters with quartering/deboning. Tripods and supplies can be donated as well as monitoring and replacing supplies as needed.

The dumpster program is funded through the state legislature. For more information, contact Bryan Lueth at 651-468-9853 or bryan.lueth@state.mn.us.