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Mandatory CWD testing returns for this year's deer hunting season

Last year, CWD sampling was voluntary due to COVID-19.
Deer hunting blaze orange

Hunters who harvest a deer in certain areas of Minnesota will have to turn in samples of the animal for chronic wasting disease testing. 

And there will be more deer permit areas added to disease zones after CWD was detected in wild and farmed deer in more parts of the state over the past year. 

“Test results show how prevalent chronic wasting disease is in a certain areas, which helps us tailor our management actions to focus on areas where the disease is concentrated,” Erik Hildebrand, DNR wildlife health specialist, said in a news release. “The DNR’s aggressive, risk-based response is based on the best-available science, and hunter-provided samples are a crucial component in helping us monitor the health of our wild deer herd.”

The Minnesota DNR says during opening weekends of firearms A and B seasons (Nov. 6-7 and Nov. 20-21), any deer that's a year or older that's hunted from a deer permit area (DPA) in one of the CWD zones must be submitted for testing.

This does not include DPAs 213 and 273 in west-central Minnesota. Those areas are part of a risk-based surveillance program and will accept voluntary samples until the goal has been reached. 

The CWD zones are in southeastern Minnesota, pockets of central Minnesota and north-central Minnesota (see map below). 

CWD sampling zones for the upcoming deer season. 

CWD sampling zones for the upcoming deer season. 

After opening weekend, voluntary submissions for deer harvested in any CWD management or control zone will be accepted at self-service stations throughout the entire deer hunting season, starting Sept. 18 when the archery season opens. 

Deer harvested in surveillance zone can be sampled voluntarily by making appointments at area wildlife offices.

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DNR staff will be at sampling stations during mandatory weekends, like they were before the 2020 hunting season. 

Last year, the Minnesota DNR called off mandatory testing for CWD due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, sampling for CWD was voluntary, with hunters submitting samples at "unstaffed" stations to allow for social distancing.

This year, staff will follow any Minnesota COVID-19 social distancing or mask requirements that are in place during the mandatory weekends. 

There will also be self-service sampling options where hunters can drop off the deer head rather than have staff take samples at stations. These stations can be found here.

Other changes to this year's deer season include: 

  • There will be a five-deer antlerless bag limit (it was previously unlimited) in DPAs in the CWD management zone. Both bucks and does harvested count toward the bag limit. The bag limit doesn't apply during late CWD hunts in December. 
  • There are carcass movement restrictions in CWD management and control zones this year, which means whole carcasses cannot leave the zones until a "not detected" test result is received. Hunters can debone or quarter their deer to transport it. There aren't any carcass movement restrictions in CWD surveillance zones, where CWD hasn't been detected in wild deer. 
  • The DNR says it "simplified" CWD zone names into three tiers: management zone, control zone and surveillance zone. More information on deer permit areas and CWD zones is in the regulations book. 
  • The DNR notes that all deer permit areas that were in a CWD zone last year will be in a CWD zone this year, with several DPAs added after CWD was detected at a Beltrami County deer facility and elsewhere in the state over the past year. 

The DNR's CWD management page is here. The 2021 Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations book is available here

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