In the interview below, Barbara Keller, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources big game program supervisor, details new deer hunting opportunities and regulations in effect this year, including establishment of a large chronic wasting disease (CWD) management zone in north-central Minnesota.
Keller holds a doctoral degree in wildlife science from the University of Missouri and was the Missouri Department of Conservation deer program manager before coming to Minnesota in January.
Q: Hunters last year killed 188,706 deer. Do you expect the same harvest this year?
A: Possibly a slight increase. Last winter was tough in some areas of the northeast and the harvest might be down there. Otherwise, some permit areas are more conservative this year than last in terms of available antlerless permits, and some areas are more liberal. Hunters should check the DNR synopsis to see harvest regulations that govern their permit area.
Q: One major change this year is establishment of a statewide youth deer hunt, Oct. 17 through Oct. 20.
A: Previously we had youth seasons in the northwest and southeast. Now it will be virtually statewide. The hunt is for youth ages 10 to 17. Youth ages 10 to 13 must have a mentor with them. The older hunters don’t, but hunter education requirements apply as do harvest regulations for the areas they hunt. Also on the same dates is an early antlerless season in some parts of Minnesota.
Q: Also new this year, hunters can use dogs to find wounded deer.
A: Yes, the Legislature established dog use for recovery of a deer or a bear. A dog must be on a leash no longer than 30 feet. Other restrictions also apply.
Q: The number designation of the metro deer permit area also has been changed.
A: Previously it was 601. Now it’s 701. We did that because we’ve designated all CWD management zones 600-series areas. We think this will be easier for hunters to keep track of.
Q: The new North-Central CWD zone was established after a wild deer near a captive deer farm in that area was found last year to have been infected with CWD.
A: Yes. The new zone, 604, is fairly large and hunters in that area should refer to the map we’ve created in the regulations and on the DNR website. As with the Southeast CWD Management Zone, the Southeast CWD Control Zone and the Central Surveillance Area, restrictions apply in the North-Central CWD Management Zone about testing of hunter-killed deer and about moving deer carcasses from these areas. An exception is that carcass transport restrictions don’t apply to the Central Surveillance Area.
Q: Hunters’ harvest limits have been significantly liberalized in the CWD management zones.
A: We want to reduce the sizes of the herds in these zones to minimize the chance CWD spreads. In the Southeast CWD Management Zone, a hunter can take up to three bucks in certain circumstances, one by archery, one by firearms and one by muzzleloader. And in both the Southeast and North-Central CWD Zones, unlimited antlerless deer can be taken, provided hunters purchase required $2.50 disease management tags for each hunt. All 600 series permit areas are also open during the early antlerless seasons.
Q: Explain the carcass movement restrictions of hunter-killed deer in the CWD management zones.
A: Whole deer carcasses can’t leave the North-Central and Southeast CWD Management Zones, or the southeast CWD Control Zone, which includes permit areas 343, 344 and 255, until a negative CWD test result has been returned. Hunters can take deer quarters or deboned meat out of these areas, so long as no part of the head or spine is attached. Complete carcass-movement restrictions are in the synopsis.
Q: Deer feeding and attractant bans also have been in effect since Sept. 1 in those areas and beyond.
A: Deer feeding gathers deer unnaturally and increases the chances that disease can spread. But because many people who feed deer are non-hunters, we established the bans along county lines to make them easier to understand, rather than by deer permit areas. A list of affected counties is in the regulation synopsis and online.
Q: During the firearms season, hunters in the Southeast and North-Central CWD Management Zones must present their deer for testing. DNR staff will be stationed throughout the zones to do the testing. But now, during archery hunting, and also during the upcoming youth hunt, no testing stations are available.
A: Correct. We have, however, established self-service drop-off locations where hunters during these seasons can leave the heads of deer that are 1-year-old or older. They simply fill out a form and leave it at the drop-off site with their deer head. We pick up the heads, have them tested and, like results from the other CWD testing we will do this fall, will post the results online. Remember, however, that carcass transport restrictions apply in the early seasons in these areas.
Q: Have you had any positive CWD tests returned so far in the archery season?