CWD on minds as deer hunters open firearms season

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 9, 2002

Saturday was the official opening of the firearms deer hunting season. Although there have been no reported cases of CWD in the wild deer that have been tested thus far this year, the DNR is asking the help of deer hunters.

DNR officials are asking that firearms deer hunters watch carefully for deer that may be displaying symptoms consistent with CWD. Hunters who see a deer that is excessively thin, drooling, has drooping ears, doesn’t show fear of humans or is drinking excessively should carefully note the location of the deer and report it to the DNR.

“We are asking hunters not to shoot sick-looking deer,” said Mike DonCarlos, DNR wildlife research manager. “Instead, hunters should report the precise location to a conservation officer or the local DNR wildlife official.”

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Telephone numbers for DNR officials are available on the DNR Web site at

If a deer has CWD or any other disease, it is likely that it won’t leave the area, so DNR officials will be able to find it and get it tested.

“Hunters should carefully consider any deer they see before they decide to harvest it,” DonCarlos said. “If they don’t intend to eat it, they shouldn’t harvest it.”

For the past year, the DNR has conducted an ongoing surveillance program, testing “suspect” deer reported by citizens and DNR officials. The surveillance program also included deer culled in Aitkin County, where CWD was discovered in a single farmed elk. So far, more than 150 deer have been tested, including more than 100 in Aitkin County, and no positives have been found.

In addition, the DNR is asking firearms deer hunters who harvest an adult deer in one of the permit areas selected for CWD testing to register the deer as soon as possible so that good samples can be obtained for testing.

“We are asking hunters not to dispose of deer carcass remains in public road ditches or on public land,” DonCarlos said.

Hunters who take the following precautions should be able to safely eat deer or elk taken this season, according to the Minnesota Department of Health:

– Do not consume meat from any deer that looks or acts ill;

– Do not eat the brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils or lymph nodes of any deer;

– Remove meat from bones rather than sawing through bones;

– Field dress the animal properly;

– Minimize handling of brain or spinal tissues, wear sturdy rubber or latex gloves when field dressing, wash hands and instruments after field dressing is complete.

Each year more than 500,000 Minnesota hunters harvest roughly 200,000 white tail deer in Minnesota. This year, hunters are being asked to take advantage of management and intensive harvest permits to help keep the state’s deer population in check.

“Managing deer populations at goal densities is an important part of maintaining a healthy deer herd,” said Lou Cornicelli, DNR big game and season management specialist. “We rely heavily on hunters to help do that.”

Most of the hunters I know wouldn’t be desperate enough to want to shoot a &uot;sickly&uot; looking deer anyway, but you never know about some people.

This past weekend I was in northern Minnesota in the Marcell area north of Grand Rapids. There were quite a few hunters on the road, no doubt going to their favorite hunting spots to put up deer stands in preparation for the upcoming firearms season. From all indications the hunting should be good. According to the DNR the deer numbers are at or near record highs across the state.

We did see quite a few deer along the road and in the fields and clearings. We also had a unique experience while driving up Highway 38. On the road ahead we saw a number of ravens feeding on a road kill. As we closed in on them they took off flying straight down the road directly ahead of us and in the center, seemingly leading the group, was a bald eagle. It seems the eagle had joined the dinner party and was feasting right with the ravens. We also sighted numerous hawks and even flushed some grouse while clearing some woodland.

This past week there were some dandy perch being taken from the channel between Albert Lea and Fountain Lakes. It won’t be long until ice covers our lakes, so now is a good time to catch some really nice perch.

I guess I really never give up on the thought of one more cast before the winter sets in for good. I took one fishing rod with me up north with plans of doing a little casting from shore. The weather was cool, crisp and sunny, just what a late fall day is supposed to feel like, but unfortunately there was just enough ice along the shore line to make that impossible.

Even though most of the leaves have fallen from the trees, this time of year is a great time to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors. There is nothing more refreshing than a walk in the brisk fall air. With all the parks and trails we have available to us, we should take the time to enjoy it before the snow flies.