Monday, January 30th, 2023
Monday, January 30th, 2023

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Muzzleloader deer season begins with a bang in Minnesota

St. Paul — At least a few Minnesota deer hunters are taking advantage of the opportunity to get into the woods with a muzzleloader. The DNR reports deer registration numbers up from the same time last year.

As of Dec. 6, muzzleloader hunters had taken 6,061 deer. Harvest during
this 16-day season was up 15% from the same point in the season a year
ago.

Harvest is up 16% from the mean through the second Sunday going back to the 2019 season.

Minnesota hunters had registered 163,687 deer through all seasons as of Dec. 6. That’s down 7% from last year, and is 10% below than the five-year mean.

Unlike the regular firearms season, when a large portion of the total harvest happens during opening weekend, Barb Keller, Minnesota DNR big-game program leader, said between 25% and 30% of total muzzleloader harvest typically comes during the season’s final weekend.

“There’s still opportunity out there,” Keller said. “Interestingly with
muzzleloader season, we actually see the last weekend as the biggest
weekend. The first weekend is actually the least of the three weekends. Then the second weekend is in the middle, and the third weekend is where we see the highest harvest.”

A total of 46,415 muzzleloader licenses had been sold in Minnesota as of
Dec. 5. That’s down from last year’s total of 49,833 licenses sold
during the entire muzzleloader season.

The 2021 muzzleloader harvest was 10,119.

Hunters still have a weekend remaining to get into the woods, with the muzzleloader season running from Nov. 26 through Dec. 11.

“We could certainly see a good amount of harvest still occur,” Keller said.
“Whether we’ll surpass last year, I’m not sure yet. We’re pretty close.

“I think more so than maybe last year, there might be more
hunters who had maybe not filled the freezer yet during the firearms
season who are still interested in hunting. We’ll see.”

Deer farm update

The Minnesota Board of Animal Health announced in a news
release Dec. 5 that no additional deer tested positive for chronic
wasting disease from a Winona County deer farm that was depopulated
after CWD was found in a 4-year-old doe in the herd in August 2022.

The Winona County farm went through a mandatory herd depopulation in
October. No additional cases of CWD were detected in the 120 whitetails
tested. The farm had been quarantined since October 2020 due to its
connection to other CWD-positive farms within the state.

A total of three CWD-positive deer were confirmed on the Winona County
farm when two additional deer tested positive after the initial August
detection.

The Winona County herd owner actively participated in the national CWD Herd Certification Program since 2012 and tested more than 100 deer for CWD before the disease was detected in August. The herd was in a CWD endemic area of Minnesota where there’s CWD in the wild deer population. The farm and deer enclosures had been double fenced since 2015, the release said.

“Unfortunately, we rarely find a definitive answer to how CWD was introduced into a herd,” said Dr. Courtney Wheeler, senior veterinarian for the BAH. “We will continue to work with farmers and state and federal partners to better understand how these animals were infected.

“We’re fortunate this producer is interested in solving this puzzle and is
working with us, the (U.S. Department of Agriculture), and the
University of Minnesota on further research. Tissues from the
depopulated deer will be submitted for a federally funded genomic
testing project to understand if some deer are more susceptible to CWD
than others.”

The herd owner is required to clean and disinfect all enclosures and must
maintain fencing on the property for five years from the date of the
last detection.

The farm is not allowed to have any deer or elk for five years, and the
property owner must maintain fencing to prevent wild deer from accessing empty pens.

Biohazard signs will be posted on the fencing and must be maintained for the entire five-year fallow period, according to the BAH.

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