CWD, safety at the forefront as deer hunters prepare for firearms season opener

Nov. 1—BEMIDJI — Whether a seasoned hunter or new to the sport, it's always a good idea to have a plan and understanding of the hunting regulations for the year as thousands of Minnesota deer hunters prepare for the firearms season that opens on Saturday, Nov. 4.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says hunters should know the deer permit area number for where they plan to hunt prior to buying a license along with making sure to understand chronic wasting disease regulations and sampling options for that area.

According to local Northwest Regional Wildlife Manager Blane Klemek, CWD is unfortunately still a prominent problem in northern Minnesota and testing will be taking place during the next two, if not three, hunting seasons.

Deer Permit Area 684 includes a majority of southern Beltrami County and a portion of northern Hubbard County was added to the late-season CWD management hunt last year after

two deer tested positive for CWD last fall.

CWD is a fatal neurological disease that affects white-tailed deer. Although it's found globally and in about half of the states in the U.S., CWD is still relatively rare in Minnesota, but as numbers climb and there is no known cure, it still remains a huge concern.

"There were two white-tailed deer that tested positive last season and that puts our CWD response plan into effect," Klemek said. "What that means is for the next three years, we will be sampling hunter-harvested deer and if there are no more positive samples, then we can quit sampling from that particular area."

Hunters are required to have their deer tested for CWD. There will be sampling stations set up during the season throughout various cities across northern Minnesota. There will even be a few self-service sampling stations set up where hunters can drop off the heads and fill out the paperwork themselves.

"All the hunters need to do is go to the

DNR website to the CWD page

and they'll find a long list of where these sampling stations are located. There will be at least three places in the Bemidji area that will have staffed sampling stations," Klemek said. "We also have self-service sampling kits that you can actually order off the DNR website and that has all you need on how to actually extract the lymph nodes and then send them into a diagnostic lab to have those samples tested."

He also mentioned in the Bemidji area, or DPA 684, hunters should be aware of the carcass movement restrictions so they don't accidentally spread CWD to other areas.

"You can't take carcasses out of 684 after you've harvested a deer unless you've processed that animal," Klemek said. "So in other words, let's say that deer was a positive CWD animal and if you took it out of the area, you could potentially spread CWD to some other places. That's why we have these carcass movement restrictions in place for these management zones."

According to Klemek, it takes roughly two weeks to get CWD results back from the lymph nodes. But hunters can check the status of their samples online along with a table of all the samples collected and the results of the tests as they come by going to the

DNR website,

searching for "CWD test results" and entering their Minnesota DNR number.

"We couldn't do this without the hunters. We wouldn't be able to battle CWD or do this work without their cooperation and partnership," Klemek added. "We are very grateful to hunters for their participation and their compliance with the mandatory sampling — so hats off to the deer hunters."

Hunters can find these details using the DPA lookup tool on the Minnesota DNR's Make a Plan for Deer Season webpage at

The season offers opportunities to spend time outdoors with friends and family, find adventure and put venison in the freezer. The Minnesota DNR's wildlife managers report that there should be good opportunities to harvest deer in most areas.

"For the upcoming deer opener, the conditions are looking good. It's been dry this year and that generally means hunters are going to have access to those remote locations where in some years, it might have been too wet to hunt," Klemek explained. "It looks like the weather is going to be pretty nice going into the firearms season and the deer population is doing well — all those things add up to an enjoyable deer hunting season."

Klemek also wants to remind hunters that no one is so good with weapons that basic firearm and range safety rules don't apply. Especially after a recent

gun accident during the youth firearms season

left a Bemidji man hospitalized, it's always a good idea to go over basic safety rules within the hunting party.

The DNR reminds hunters that by following a couple of basic rules, they can avoid most hunting-related firearms incidents. Here is a list of basic safety rules every hunter should follow:

* Treat every firearm as if it is loaded.

* Always control the muzzle and keep it pointed in a safe direction.

* Be sure of your target and what is beyond. If you aren't certain, don't take the shot.

* Keep your finger off the trigger until you're ready to shoot.

* Wear Protective gear. Hunters' eyes and ears are vulnerable to a number of potential hazards while hunting, so it's important to protect them.

* Be sure to wear plenty of blaze orange. Wearing blaze orange makes you visible to others hunting in the area. Read the

blaze clothing requirements.

Here is a list of important dates in the coming 2023 deer hunting season.

* Archery: Saturday, Sept. 16, through Sunday, Dec. 31.

* Firearms: Saturday, Nov. 4, with various closing dates depending on a hunter's location.

* Muzzleloader: Saturday, Nov. 25, through Sunday, Dec. 10.

* Late CWD hunt (DPAs 605, 643, 645, 646, 647, 648 and 649) Dec. 15-17.