A chronic wasting disease testing trailer was parked in the Magnum Sports parking lot for the majority of September through November. Mandatory testing of deer shot by hunters meant the testing site was busy throughout the early hunting season.
GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS
A chronic wasting disease testing trailer was parked in the Magnum Sports parking lot for the majority of September through November. Mandatory testing of deer shot by hunters meant the testing site was busy throughout the early hunting season. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS

It’s partnership for prevention.

“We’ve been working at the Magnum Sports location for several years, and it’s a good partnership of Wildlife Services working with Magnum Sports. We’ve actually worked at their old location and now at their new location for the last 15-plus years,” stated Lou Cornicelli, of the Minnesota Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology.

Cornicelli explained that the trailer and truck that were stationed at Chatfield’s sporting and archery shop for a good share of the early hunting season were there courtesy of the shop’s owner, Paul Novotny. Novotny allows the collaboration between the wildlife department and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to take place on his property as both entities work to combat the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD), a disease infecting Minnesota’s and now Fillmore County’s whitetail deer population.

Magnum Sports manager Brad Stephans explained the shop has allotted space for the DNR and USDA to conduct CWD testing because it offers convenience for the hunters.

“They have to buy licenses here, so we have always let them set up by our shop. It makes it easier for them,” Stephans said.

Cornicelli added, “They’ve been great about giving us a good place to work. That local connection is really important to the local community — we set up shop in Preston and Chatfield, and there’s always good interaction with the local hunters. We’re not there for a really good reason, but we’ve had really a really good response.”

With the discovery of CWD in the local deer herds last fall, the fisheries and wildlife department changed where it stationed its CWD testing sites, according to Cornicelli. He noted that the trailer that stood on the corner of Magnum’s parking lot allows the researchers to conduct testing while they await more hunters answering the mandatory call to bring their deer to be tested.

Additionally, there are boxes in several communities at sites such as gas stations so that hunters can drop off tagged deer heads for examination for CWD.

“The USDA is a partner agency, and their disease biologist helps us with sampling and provides us with the equipment and mapping to help us,” Cornicelli said. “Chatfield is one of the sites we’ve been at, and we’ve now been working out of the Preston disease center at the Preston forestry office, and there’s Chatfield at Magnum Sports, and Pam’s Corner Convenience in Rushford. Other sites were scattered around Fillmore, Houston and Winona counties — those are our historic locations, the places we’ve set up before. This year, we’ve got head boxes in Harmony at Oak Meadow Meats, in Lanesboro at the fisheries office, in Preston at the forestry office, in Wykoff at Goodies & Gas.”

The trailer and CWD deposit boxes have been available to hunters since the beginning of archery season.

Cornicelli stated, “Depending on how long we’re working, we have a physical presence during the entire season and the late season, with head boxes available from archery to muzzle season. Folks know that if they kill a deer in Area 603, they have to present the deer at a head box…an on-site registration station like Magnum Sports in Chatfield would be one of those places.”

He concluded by emphasizing that he wants people to understand that this is a long-term benefit — that 50 years from now, they don’t want to leave people to manage CWD. “I think that we’re concerned with the long-term aspect of the disease…the impact on the deer population. It doesn’t mean that we kill all the deer, but we (do have to test for it),” he said.