By Jan Lee Buxengard
Special to The Caledonia Argus
The Houston County Township Officers Association (HCTOA) held its 58th annual dinner meeting on September 11 at the Four Seasons Community Center, Caledonia.
Hosted by the nine-member township association board, the social and informational event had an attendance of 108, including township officers, wives, county commissioners and department heads, as well as eight guests. All but Black Hammer, La Crescent and Jefferson townships were represented.
“This evening is sponsored by the county association and is a time of relaxation and enjoyment,” stated association president Richard Markos as he welcomed those in attendance. “We are a loose organization. We don’t have regularly scheduled meetings and do not have a charter like some county associations.”
Markos announced that the association is receptive to any suggestions and/or issues that should be addressed by the association, and would benefit Houston County and/or the respective township. Forms were made available to relay that information to the county organization.
There was a moment of silence to honor township officers David Oitzman, Eugene Wilhelm and Kenneth Meyer, who served many years with township government and the county association board. An invocation also included remembering those who lost their lives 18 years ago on Sept. 11, when the Twin Towers and Pentagon were hit.
The buffet meal was prepared and served by Rosie’s Catering of Brownsville. Gratitude was expressed for the contributions of cash support for the event, as well as to the many businesses and individuals throughout the county, who provided a vast amount of door prizes that were given out following the program.
Guest speakers were Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officers/Game Wardens Tyler Ramaker and Mitch Boyum of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources – DNR. Ramaker represents the east half of Houston County at the La Crescent enforcement area, while Boyum enforces the west half of Houston County and part of Fillmore County – the Rushford enforcement area.
The question and answer interchange with the officers showed great interest in the topic presented.
Officer Ramaker explained that chronic wasting disease (CWD) occurs in deer, caribou, reindeer, elk and moose. This disease of the brain is always lethal. It is contagious among deer and can exist in the area after the deer die. The majority who test positive and spread the disease are bucks.
Previously CWD had been found in the Preston area, but now has also been discovered on a game farm on the Winona and Houston County line.
“CWD is really big in the deer world and new to our area,” the officers echoed. “Houston County has one of the highest deer populations in the state.”
“In order to keep the disease at a manageable percentage, we want to decrease the density of the population,” Officer Boyum stated adding, “What we hope for is to keep the disease at a manageable percent of the deer population. Fewer deer, the less chance of spreading CWD. It’s not possible to eradicate deer.”
The Southeast disease management zone includes deer permit areas: 634, 645, 646, 647, 648, 649 and 655. ALL of Houston County is in the CWD management zone.
The rules have changed, the officers pointed out. New this year is that CWD sampling is MANDATORY for all deer harvested in the CWD management zone during all seasons. Deer must be presented at a sampling station for testing on the same day of harvest. During firearms season, the whole deer has to be brought in.
There will be 50-gallon barrels/head boxes available to put the deer head in. If it tests positive for CWD, you would get a phone call. In 5-7 days, you can go on line and look up the receipt number and learn the test results.
If the test is positive, there will be dumpsters available where those carcasses can be put and not in the field, where the disease can be spread. The carcasses will be incinerated.
Veterinarian students will help staff the stations to make things move along at a reasonable pace. The listing of hours and all testing sites are on the DNR website.
Hunters must buy a primary tag before purchasing a disease tag. They may purchase an unlimited number of disease management tags for $2.50 each for antlerless deer. There is no limit of tags. Can harvest up to three deer – one gun, one bow, and one muzzle loader. Can buy a bonus buck tag for $17.
Carcass movement restrictions are in effect and apply during all seasons, including fawns. The officers stressed, “You can’t take the head or spine out of the area. We don’t want movement of those positive carcasses.”
Also, every deer has to be picked up, even coyote kill carcasses. And, road kill. Call somebody - the state patrol, sheriff or DNR.
There is a deer feeding and attractant ban in effect in Dodge, Fillmore, Freeborn, Goodhue, Houston, Mower, Olmsted, Steele, Wabasha and Winona counties.
“It is illegal to be baiting wildlife. You can do a bird feeder, if it is six feet or more off the ground,” one of the officers stated.
CWD is an on-going disease in the deer population. To manage it is going to be a learning curve, the officers stated.
Only through working together can we hope to successfully fight CWD and maintain a healthy and productive deer herd for future generations.
Township Association history
The Houston County Township Officers Association, formed in 1961, consists of a board made up of representatives from four quadrants of the county, with two people from each quadrant, and one at large member.
Current board members are: for the Northwest (representing Money Creek, Houston, Sheldon and Yucatan Townships) – Richard Nelson and John Beckman; Northeast (representing Mound Prairie, La Crescent, Hokah, Union and Brownsville Townships) – Richard Markos and Jon Welda; Southwest (representing Black Hammer, Caledonia, Spring Grove and Wilmington Townships) – Jim Solum and Mike Patterson; Southeast (representing Mayville, Winnebago, Crooked Creek and Jefferson Townships) – Arlyn Pohlman and Gene Tessmer; and board member at large Larry Gaustad.
Current officers are Richard Markos – president, Gene Tessmer – vice president, Richard Nelson – secretary, and Arlyn Pohlman – treasurer.