The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is releasing 2020 deer hunting regulations this week. Barb Keller, who supervises the DNR’s big-game program, reviewed highlights in an interview with the Star Tribune.

Q: Any changes this year because of the coronavirus pandemic?

A: Yes. There’s a new process to get your deer tested for chronic wasting disease [CWD], and the tests won’t be mandatory. Last year we required hunters in designated CWD zones to visit a DNR sampling station staffed by crews that removed lymph nodes for testing. This year, those stations will be replaced by drop boxes for hunters to deposit deer heads or lymph nodes for testing. Crews will take the heads and tissue samples to another site for handling and submitting to the laboratory. It’s voluntary this year, but we highly encourage hunters in these zones to submit test samples.


Q: Why the change?

A: We’re concerned about spreading the virus. At certain times last year our sampling stations became crowded.


Q: How long will it take to receive CWD test results?

A: Turnaround time last year was three to four business days for most of the season, except opening weekend of the firearms season. The glut of samples caused delays, including some up to three weeks. We’re hoping to improve turnaround time this year on opening weekend with a new testing lab contract.


Q: Last year in CWD zones, hunters were prohibited from moving deer carcasses out of the zone without a “not detected” CWD test result. Is that still the case?

A: Yes. Carcass movement restrictions will apply to hunters in designated zones. Unless the hunter has proof of a “not detected” CWD test result, the carcass must remain in the zone. Venison can be removed from the zone if the deer is properly quartered or boned out.

Q: Will the DNR supply carcass dumpsters?

A: Yes, in designated CWD zones where there are carcass movement restrictions. Covered dumpsters allow for proper disposal of heads and spinal columns. Locations will be announced on the DNR website before the season.


Q: What new zones have been created this year for CWD management and surveillance?

A: CWD Management Zone 605 has been created in Dakota County. It encompasses last year’s 339 Permit Area and parts of four other areas within a 15-mile radius of a wild deer near Farmington that tested positive in March for CWD. New sampling also will be done in Douglas and Pine counties around two farms where CWD was detected in captive deer.


Q: Any bag limit changes this year?

A: Hunters in the northeast might see lower bag limit restrictions while bag limits may increase in central Minnesota and the southeast. Those who hunt in CWD management zones will have access to unlimited antlerless tags. The extra tags will cost $2.50 each.


Q: What happens to antler point restrictions [APR] this year in southeastern Minnesota?

A: We’re rescinding APR this year. We were down to three permit areas last year with APR. This year we’re dropping the special regulation because CWD has been found in wild deer in close proximity to the APR zones.


Q: Season dates?

A: Archery Sept. 19-Dec. 31; firearms opener Nov. 7; muzzleloader Nov. 28-Dec. 13; statewide youth season Oct. 15-18; early antlerless season Oct. 15-18; other special seasons will be held on various dates.


Q: When will 2020 deer hunting booklets be available to hunters?

A: The printed booklet will be in vendor locations statewide by Aug. 1. Regulations also are available online this week at the DNR website,