DNR releases deer management plan, changes for 2019 hunting season

By : 
Jordan Gerard and Scott Bestul

Nearly 30 area hunters and landowners gathered at the Houston Community Center on August 27, to hear how drastic regulation changes would affect their 2019 deer season. Though no formal presentation was given, MN DNR area wildlife manager Brandon Schad fielded questions for nearly two hours.

While many of those questions focused on CWD, others addressed more practical mattters, such as how mandatory testing will occur this fall.

Nearly 50 CWD-positive deer have been found in the southeast region of the state since first discovering CWD in wild deer in 2010.

Schad said the regulation changes, which include the elimination of antler point restrictions, a three-buck limit, and the reinstatement of gross-tagging, are designed to increase overall harvest and eliminate protection of bucks. “We don’t think managing for mature bucks is responsible right now,” Schad said, noting that some research suggests older bucks are more likely to carry CWD.

Regulation changes were instituted to fulfill the DNR's goal is to fulfill its obligation of keeping a healthy deer herd by keeping the prevalence and spread of CWD low.

CWD has been found in bucks as young as a year and a half old.

The DNR is not sure when or how long research might take to discover the cause of CWD or a worthwhile cure.

"What we're hoping not to see is the disease jumping into new areas," Schad said. "We know deer move to some degree, but we're hoping to minimize the spread and won't see a rapid spread of it."

Other states with known cases of CWD, like Wisconsin have implemented different plans. Wisconsin has areas of up to 40% prevalence of CWD in its deer, yet they do not have rigorous regulations like Minnesota. Schad said each state is dealing with it in its own way.

A well-known scientist, Bryan Richards, will be speaking about CWD at Rushford-Peterson High School on Sept. 19. Look for more details pertaining to that event soon.

"We're hoping someone can come up with a solution in a laboratory that's a more permanent solution," Schad said

The DNR is also worried that if more deer turn up ill, less people will be interested in hunting, thus resulting in a decrease for licenses, recreation and tourism.

But this year the DNR expects to receive a "huge" amount of sampling, with CWD testing required all season long in all three seasons.

While some testing stations will be manned, others will not be. The DNR will have dumpsters located across the region (Stinson Meats in Houston is the closest for many residents; for a complete list visit the DNR website). At these sites, a barrel, forms and equipment will be provided in order for hunters to submit their deer for testing. Instructions will be provided at the site.

Schad recommends that hunters who bag a trophy buck take it to the taxidermist and allow them to take the antlers off first, and then take the deer to be sampled. Some taxidermists may be trained on how to take samples and submit them to the DNR.

Adopt-a-Dumpster

The DNR will also help with carcass disposal by providing dumpsters at various locations in the management zone.

In doing so, the goal is to limit the number of prions left on the landscape and transferred to other organisms, reduce potential spread of CWD, buy time for research to catch up and aid hunters in complying with carcass movement restrictions.

The DNR believes the dumpster program is one of the most important ways that hunters can help stop the spread of this disease.

Hunters can also help by monitoring a dumpster to keep the area clean and alerting DNR staff if additional pick ups are need beyond the regular schedule of three days a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday).

A few locations will have a tripod and basic supplies to help hunters with quartering/deboning. Tripods and supplies can be donated as well as monitoring and replacing supplies as needed.

The dumpster program is funded through the state legislature. For more information, contact Bryan Lueth at 651-468-9853 or bryan.lueth@state.mn.us.

Regulation changes for 2019

Hunters should take extra care to read the regulations book this year as new changes affect southeast Minnesota's hunting zones.

Perhaps the biggest change in general is the new Deer Permit Area (DPA) numbers for the whole area. The new numbers are 643, 645, 646, 647, 648, 649 and 655 (formerly 345, 346, 347, 348, 349 and parts of 255 and 343).

The newest changes for archery, firearm and muzzleloader seasons include the cancellation of the 4-point rule, except in permit areas 338, 339, 341 and 342. Legal bucks have one antler at least three inches long. Button bucks are considered antlerless deer.

Party hunting, or cross-tagging, for an antlered buck is now allowed in all deer permit areas except for 338, 339, 341 and 342.

The prohibition on deer feeding and attractants, which includes urine-based deer scents, has been expanded into more counties in southeast Minnesota, which still includes Houston and Fillmore counties.

A person may use a dog to retrieve a wounded deer or bear (see page 61 of the regulations book for more information).

Crossbows are no longer required to have a 30-inch stock to be legal for hunting.

The youth season will be held statewide on Oct. 17 to 20 this year. Youth ages 10-17 may participate. An adult/mentor/guardian must accompany youth ages 10-13 at all times during the hunt.

Bag limit is one deer. Youth can use their regular license to take an antlerless deer in any deer permit area except those designated as "bucks-only."

A bonus permit can be used to take antlerless deer in any permit area where bonus permits are allowed during firearms season.

Area specific rules

If you hunt in DPAs 643, 645, 646, 647, 648, 649 and 255, those areas are known as the Southeast Management Zone.

Mandatory chronic wasting disease (CWD) testing is still required for all seasons, every day, whereas last year only included the first two days of firearm A and B seasons. The deer must be presented for testing on the same day of harvest.

Carcass movement restrictions still apply during all seasons, including fawns.

Hunters can purchase an unlimited number of disease management tags for $2.50 each for antlerless deer.

New this year, hunters can harvest up to three legal bucks per year (one per license – archery, firearms, muzzleloader).

Antler point restrictions are canceled in the southeast management zone.

Statewide A or late-season B firearms license may be used during any firearms season. Firearms season for deer in the southeast management zone will be Nov. 9-17 for buck season (A) and Nov. 23-Dec. 1 for doe season (B).

Archery season begins Sept. 14 and ends Dec. 31. Muzzleloader season begins Nov. 30 and ends Dec. 15.