By Jordan Gerard

Editor, The Caledonia Argus

With the changing of the seasons comes the start of deer hunting season in southeastern Minnesota, and a few changes hunters should mind this hunting season. 

Bow season began Sept. 19, soon to be followed by firearm, crossbow and muzzleloader seasons. The Argus talked to local Department of Natural Resources conservation officer Tyler Ramaker –based out of La Crescent– about changes to CWD and what hunters need to be aware of this season. 

Are there any new regulations for deer season in this area? 

There are no new major regulation changes from last season, aside from some small changes to CWD testing requirements. However, it’s worth mentioning some of the most common  violations encountered by Conservation Officers.

• The use of bait, salt/minerals and attractants such as doe estrus scents is not allowed. Hunting deer with the aid of bait will result in the loss of hunting privileges.  

• Shining for wildlife is only allowed until two hours after sunset. Shining while in possession of a firearm, bow or other implement of take is illegal.

• Hunters should secure permission from property owners before hunting private land.

Chronic Wasting Disease has taken a more prominent presence in Houston County recently. Are there any changes for CWD? Any changes on transporting deer meat or carcasses?

[The] DNR is continuing to manage CWD in southeastern MN. Testing for CWD will continue for all deer in southeast Minnesota this year, however due to COVID 19, testing will not be mandatory this year.  

To test their deer, hunters can use the self-service sampling stations throughout the area. All materials and instructions are on site at the sampling stations. 

Local taxidermists will also being taking samples for those hunters wanting to mount their deer. Sampling locations and participating taxidermists can be found at https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/cwd/se-management-zone.html.

Although CWD testing is not mandatory, carcass transport laws continue to remain in place for 2020. Whole carcasses of all deer, including fawns, taken within a CWD management zone must remain in the zone until a “not detected” test is confirmed. 

A major change for 2020 is that carcass movement restrictions also apply to fawns as well. During the 2019 season, carcass movement restrictions did not apply to fawns. The following parts of deer may leave a CWD management zone before a “not detected” test result is confirmed: 

• Quarters or other portions of meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached; the main leg bone can remain in each quarter

• Meat that is boned out or that is cut and wrapped (either commercially or privately)

• Hides and teeth

• Antlers or clean (no brain tissue attached) skull plates with antlers attached

Dumpsters will be available to hunters at specific locations throughout the area for carcass disposal.

How is COVID affecting hunting and CWD in general? 

CWD testing is not mandatory for 2020 due to COVID19, to avoid concentrating large groups of people. Also, due to COVID19, firearms safety in-person classes and field days have been postponed until Minnesota Department of Health guidelines are modified in such a way that in-person field days are consistent with those guidelines.

Do you think hunting will see an increase in participants due to COVID shutting many activities down?

At this time, we don’t know when that might be. In the interim, the DNR has modified the firearms safety program to ensure youth who want to hunt this fall are able to. 

• Students age 14 and older may complete a virtual field day instead of the traditional in-person field day by signing up for and completing the online hunter safety course.

• Students ages 12 and 13 still must complete a traditional in-person field day in order to receive their firearms safety certificate. If those students are unable to do so but want to hunt this fall, the DNR recommends they take advantage of the apprentice hunter validation.

Fishing and other outdoor recreation saw a significant uptick in participation this spring and summer. It remains to be seen if the current social situation and health guidelines will have the same effect on hunting participation. 

Anything else hunters should know before heading out to the woods for the season? 

I recommend that hunters check in with their meat processors prior to the season to ask if they will be accepting wild game this year. 

Due to several reasons, some meat processors have indicated they will not be taking wild game or have changed the way they will accept wild game.

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