As deer hunters gear up for the firearms season that opens statewide this weekend, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is highlighting the importance of everyone’s compliance with regulations related to chronic wasting disease in wild deer.

“CWD is relatively rare in Minnesota, and we want to keep it that way for all of the Minnesotans who want our deer population to stay healthy,” said Michelle Carstensen, DNR wildlife health program supervisor, in a news release. “This neurological disease is always fatal when contracted by deer. Acting now is our best chance to keep CWD contained and maintain our wild deer population’s health long term.”

All deer taken in Area 604 north of Brainerd -- west of Aitkin, south of Emily and east of Gull Lake -- must be tested for CWD by the DNR. Testing is available at several registration stations in the area.

CWD affects the cervid family, which includes deer, elk and moose. It is spread through direct contact with an infected animal’s saliva, urine, blood, feces, antler velvet or carcass. There is no vaccine or treatment for this disease.

To limit the spread of CWD in areas where the disease has been found in wild deer, the DNR is taking a three-pronged approach: reducing deer densities; banning people from feeding deer in some areas to reduce this human-facilitated contact between deer; and restricting deer carcass movements.

Barbara Keller, the DNR’s big game program leader, said preventing the spread of the disease requires help from all Minnesotans who interact with deer.

“We’re all in this together, whether you’re a hunter who provides critical data showing us how prevalent the disease is in a specific area, or a resident who can prevent deer from congregating by not feeding them,” Keller said in a news release.

During the latest legislative session, Minnesota lawmakers approved $1.87 million allocated from the state’s general tax fund and $2.85 million from the state’s Game and Fish Fund to the DNR’s CWD management efforts.

“Stopping the spread of CWD is a high priority for the DNR, and we can’t accomplish that without adequate funding,” said DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen in a news release. “We want to thank Gov. Tim Walz and the Legislature for their leadership on this issue.”

The funding helps pay for the cost of testing deer for the disease, and staff and equipment needed for surveillance efforts.

“We’re also grateful for support from those who have helped sponsor carcass disposal locations through our Adopt-A-Dumpster program -- Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Bluffland Whitetails Association, Crow Wing County and the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association,” Keller said. “Having dedicated locations for hunters helps them plan ahead so they can comply with deer carcass movement restrictions.”

Keeping Minnesota’s wild deer population healthy remains the goal in the DNR’s response to chronic wasting disease. Since CWD was first detected in Minnesota in 2002, the DNR has tested more than 72,000 wild deer in the state. To date, 54 wild deer have tested positive for CWD in Minnesota. Test results, including locations of confirmed positive test results and statistics, are available on the DNR website at mndnr.gov/cwdcheck.

As part of its response plan, the DNR is monitoring for CWD in disease management zones around areas that the disease has been detected in wild deer, as well as in a CWD surveillance area where the disease was found in captive deer. The CWD management zones are located in southeastern and north-central Minnesota; the CWD surveillance area is located in central Minnesota.

The DNR’s three-pronged approach to prevent the spread of the disease was detailed in an Aug. 27 news release; the department’s CWD response plan can be found online.

For more information on chronic wasting disease, including maps of CWD surveillance areas, frequently asked questions and hunter information, visit mndnr.gov/cwd.

Brainerd area forecast for the opener

On Saturday, the National Weather Service in Duluth has forecast low temperatures in the mid-20s and a high temp of 36 degrees. There is a chance of snow showers before 1 p.m., a chance of rain and snow showers 1-4 p.m., and a chance of snow showers after 4 p.m.

On Sunday, the high temperature is expected to be 23 degrees, and conditions will be blustery, the weather service reported.

For Monday and Tuesday, the weather service’s forecast calls for mostly cloudy skies and high temperatures of 15-17 degrees.

Minnesota deer season by the numbers

  • The 2019 Minnesota firearms deer season for Northeastern Minnesota (the 100 series permit areas) runs for 16 days, from Saturday, Nov. 9, through Sunday, Nov. 24.

  • Shooting hours each day are a half-hour before sunrise to a half-hour after sunset.

  • Nearly 500,000 hunters are expected to be afield statewide Saturday, Nov. 9.

  • About half the deer shot during the season are shot opening weekend. This year, that will likely be about 100,000 deer, depending on the weather. (Warmer, drier weather means hunters stay outside more and more deer are shot.) About 70% of the harvest occurs in the first four days of the season. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has set an annual goal of 200,000 deer taken by hunters — firearms, muzzleloader and archery combined.

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

  • A whitetailed deer’s home range is about 1 square mile.

  • The biggest white-tailed deer recorded in Minnesota was a 500-pound buck.

  • Last year, 32% of Minnesota firearm hunters successfully harvested a deer.

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

  • A legal buck is a deer having at least one antler 3 inches long. Buck fawns, sometimes called button bucks or nubbin' bucks, are not legal bucks.

  • Resident firearms deer licenses are $34 in 2019.

  • Resident hunters 84 years old and older can shoot a deer of either sex in any permit area.

  • A deer license purchased after the opening day of the season is valid starting the next day after it is issued, but not on the day it is issued.

  • Share your stories on social media using #DeerCampMN.

Be safe out there

The DNR reminds hunters to follow the three tenets of safe firearms handling: Treat each firearm as if it is loaded and keep your finger off the trigger; always control the muzzle of the firearm; and be sure of target and what is beyond. Tree-stand accidents are the leading cause of injury to hunters, so it's always important to wear a safety harness and unload your gun before going up or down in your stand.

Blaze orange or pink

All hunters and trappers in the field during an open firearms deer seasons must display blaze orange or blaze pink on the visible portion of the person's cap and outer clothing above the waist, excluding sleeves and gloves. Blaze orange or blaze pink camouflage patterns are allowed and must be at least 50% blaze orange or pink within each square foot.

Questions? DNR operators standing by

Hunters can find deer hunting information at mndnr.gov/hunting/deer. Hunting season questions can be fielded by 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. Saturdays. While usually closed Sundays and holidays, the center will be open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 10, and Monday, Nov. 11 (Veterans Day.)

To report a violation in progress, call the Turn in Poachers line at 800-652-9093.

It’s still wet out there

Hunters should plan for very wet field conditions across the area. Fall has been extremely wet. Standing water is common in low areas. Normally, accessible spots in low terrain will be difficult to access in 2019. Logging road and trail access is difficult in lower areas this year. Swamps, low areas and crossings are inaccessible for wheeled vehicles in many areas. Use discretion.

Water levels in lakes, rivers and streams are high for this time of year. Scout ahead of time for local conditions in your hunting area. (Also, be careful around thin ice.)

Online registration requires login to DNR website

For the second year, hunters who harvest deer, bear or turkey must sign into the Minnesota DNR's electronic license system when registering a harvest online.

The extra step is intended to add security to hunter information listed online, said Steve Michaels, DNR licensing program director.

Deer can also be registered by calling 888-706-6367 or in person at designated registration stations.

To register a harvest online, go to mndnr.gov/buyalicense. The harvest registration system is available after hunters enter their information in the customer identification page, similar to when purchasing a DNR license or permit. Once signed in, click on the "Harvest" tab. Harvest registration is the same as in past years, and requires hunters to enter a nine-digit harvest registration number that is printed on the license.

For more information, go to mndnr.gov/regulations/hunting.

No portable deer stands on WMAs in Northeastern Minnesota

Hunters planning to use portable stands on wildlife management areas are reminded to check regulations to know when they need to remove stands after hunting. In most of the state, including here in Northeastern Minnesota, leaving stands overnight on WMAs is not allowed and the stands must be removed at the end of the day.

In some areas of northwestern Minnesota, roughly north of Thief River Falls and west of Warroad, portable stands can be left out overnight during the season.

Hunters can use leashed dogs to track wounded deer

A new hunting regulation change allows Minnesota hunters to use a leashed dog to locate and retrieve a wounded deer or bear. The person attempting to locate the animal must have a valid license to take the deer or bear, or the dog handler must be accompanied by a hunter with a valid license.

People must wear blaze orange/pink. Any light used must be an artificial light carried in the hand or attached to the person.

The dog must be on a leash no longer than 30 feet and the dog owner or handler must physically control the leash at all times. Finally, the dog owner’s name and telephone number must be on the dog while it’s being used to locate a wounded deer or bear.

These requirements can be found on page 61 of the Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations book.

What to put in a day pack or fanny pack for deer hunting

  • Sharp knife

  • Headlamp with fresh batteries

  • Thin rope to use as haul line at a deer stand, heavier rope and harness for dragging deer out

  • Tree-stand safety harness

  • Compass (know how to use it) and GPS

  • Hunting license

  • Rubber gloves for field dressing deer

  • Toilet paper

  • Small survival kit in quart-size zip-top bag that includes two 50-gallon garbage bags (for emergency shelter), waterproof matches or lighter, whistle and energy bar

  • Small folding saw for clearing brush

  • Deer haul line and shoulder harness

  • Plastic trail-marking tape (for tracking deer in rainy or snowy conditions)

  • Pelvic saw for field dressing deer

  • Water bottle

  • Grunt call

  • Cough drops

  • Cellphone, charged but turned off