With the first of two special no-bag-limit southeast Minnesota deer hunts set to begin Friday to further thin the region's whitetail herd, Department of Natural Resources wildlife officials met Tuesday night in Preston to answer hunters' questions about the agency's continuing plans to combat chronic wasting disease (CWD) among deer.

Twelve wild southeast Minnesota deer were found to be infected with CWD this fall during mandatory checks, bringing the region's total to 30.

Though some landowners and hunters oppose the either-sex hunts scheduled for Dec. 21-23 and Dec. 28-30, the 270 first-come, first-served permits available to hunt in Forestville State Park and Pin Oak Prairie Scientific and Natural Area sold out in two hours.

The special hunts will occur in deer permit areas 603, 347 and 348, and portions of deer permit areas 343 and 345 that are south of Interstate Hwy. 90.

DNR officials stressed that most land in the hunt areas is privately owned and permission must be gained for access.

Public hunting areas open during the regular deer season will be open for the special hunts, including Cherry Grove Blind Valley Scientific and Natural Area, which adjoins the Cherry Grove Wildlife Management Area. The DNR lists other public lands at mndnr.gov/maps/compass.

Any deer killed during the hunts must be presented at a DNR check station to be tested for CWD. Other special-hunt rules and a map of the hunt area are at mndnr.gov/cwd.

Dennis Anderson