DNR opening special deer hunting season to combat chronic wasting disease

The Minnesota DNR is opening a special deer hunting season in southeastern Minnesota in hopes of controlling chronic wasting disease. The disease showed up in some deer harvested outside of a special management zone this fall and now the DNR is asking hunters to help them contain the disease.

So far, the brain disease affecting white tail deer has been contained to a single small region near Prescott in southeastern Minnesota, but testing on harvested deer from this fall’s hunt shows two bucks outside of that zone also tested positive.

“Our concern is that we have a persistent infection of the disease around Preston,” said Lou Cornicelli, a DNR wildlife research manager. “But we are also seeing is that animals, particularly males, all males that are moving out from beyond that core and being picked up miles away.”

Bucks typically travel much farther than does. To reduce the number of bucks from spreading the disease and to cut the deer density, the DNR has set up two special weekend hunts on December 21 through the 23 and again the next weekend on December 28 to the 30.

The boundary for the hunting zone extends 10 miles beyond Preston, bordering I-90 to the north, Highway 63 to the west and Highway 43 to the east. The zone extends south to the Iowa border.

“If you’ve already taken a deer, it doesn’t matter,” said Cornicelli. “There’s no bag limit. There’s no, nothing special. You can go buy a $2.50 disease management tag, it will be valid for either sex in that zone and you can use it for both of those hunts.”  

CWD is still fairly new in Minnesota deer. It was first discovered in three deer back in 2016, since then 28 have tested positive which means that the disease is probably here to stay.

“Our hope now is can we keep the infection contained and really put a dent in it over this winter,” said Cornicelli.

A good portion of land in this special hunting area is private. The DNR urges hunters to get permission before entering those properties.

Once a deer is harvested during the hunt, it must be tested for CWD at a DNR site within 24 hours.