Two special deer hunts scheduled in southeast Minnesota this month

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Deer hunting in southeast Minnesota is not quite over yet. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has announced two special hunts in December. While more hunting might be good news to hunters who were unsuccessful, the bad news is the reason for the hunts; the discovery of more Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in area deer.

The latest CWD-positive deer was found in Houston County in mid-November. This area is outside of the regular quarantine-management location known as permit area 603.

Residents and non-residents can participate in two special hunts, scheduled for Dec. 21-23 and Dec. 28-30. The goal of these hunts is to help limit the further spread of CWD in southeast Minnesota.

“We’re starting to see more CWD cases pop up in the area,” said Lou Cornicelli, MDNR Wildlife Research Manager. “We’re also concerned because our deer movement study is showing herd populations spreading out. Because we’re concerned about deer radiating out from around that Preston area, we’ve decided to have an expanded special hunt.

““Our hope is that we get some participation in this hunt to really affect deer populations and try to remove those infected animals.”

The extra deer hunt will take place in permit areas 603, 347, and 348. There will also be hunting in portions of permit areas 343 and 345 that area south of Interstate 90.

While reducing deer populations in public areas is an important part of the strategy, Cornicelli said what the DNR really wants is to get access to some of the private lands where the deer were found. That’s where the DNR would like to lower population densities. While they want to harvest some of the female social groups, it’s really the male deer moving around that spreads the most disease.

“A lot of the area where the hunt is taking place is private land, so hunters need to make sure they have permission to hunt those lands,” Cornicelli said. “Essentially, hunters can use any unfilled deer license. If they don’t have one, hunters can buy a disease-management permit for $2.50. Those will be valid for either sex of deer.

“There’s no bag limit, but registration is mandatory for all sex and age classes. The deer also have to stay in the permit area until the CWD test results come back.”

Cornicelli said while a CWD test isn’t the same thing as a food safety test, it’s not recommended that hunters consume a positive deer. It’s important to keep in mind that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that hunters don’t consume a positive animal. The Minnesota DNR is in full agreement with that recommendation.

“Given that testing is mandatory, we’ll get it turned around in four or five days at most,” Cornicelli said. “Hunters can go ahead and process their deer. Just make sure to wait until you get the test results back before consuming any of the meat. If it’s a negative result, you’re good to go to eat the deer.

The biggest challenge the DNR runs into with special hunts? People not realizing that the deer have to stay in the area they’re harvested in until the test is complete. Once the results are in (and hopefully negative), then it’s legal to transport the deer outside the harvest area.

“When you read about the special hunt, make sure you read all the rules that go with it and not just the ones you like,” Cornicelli said. “All the information you need is right there on the DNR website. Plan your hunt carefully, get all the info you need, and you’ll be good to go.

“When a hunter stops at the testing station, the test itself is quick. We register the deer, make an incision across the lower jaw, and take out two lymph nodes. It just takes a few minutes. It goes even faster if you place the deer in the back of your truck with the head toward the back of the truck for easier access. Plus, we’ll get the nodes out of a fresh deer faster than one that’s partially or totally frozen.”

After the test is done, hunters can find out the results on the DNR website. All hunters need to do is enter the nine-digit MDNR number (without the dashes), and the test results will pop up.

“However, if the deer is positive, we’ll actually call each hunter before they even get the results on the website,” Cornicelli said. “If it is positive, we’ll help dispose of the meat, too. We’ll pick either the carcass or the meat (if it’s already processed) up. We take it to an incinerator at the University of Minnesota and dispose of it that way.”

All special hunt information is available on the Minnesota DNR website.