Warm weather boosts CWD special hunt
PRESTON — With a special hunt in Fillmore County entering its last days Saturday and Sunday, hunters were out in force to harvest deer to provide samples for Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ chronic wasting disease management zone 603.
“The weather is helping with the hunters,” DNR Wildlife Health Specialist Erik Hildebrand said.
Wildlife Specialist Margaret Dexter with the DNR’s wildlife health program, said the special CWD hunt had, as of Thursday, yielded 550 deer with the initial goal of 900 deer.
That goal will likely be increased since more deer with CWD have been found in zone 603, Hildebrand said. That new goal has yet to be determined, but with five confirmed cases of CWD and one suspected case that was discovered Friday — it will be confirmed or cleared either Wednesday or Thursday — the 900 goal will certainly rise.
The new suspect deer, he said, was found in the same 3-square-mile area where four of the five other deer have been found. Those deer were all found just north of Preston, and the last two confirmed deer, plus the suspect deer are all does, he said.
The one deer that was found out of that area was harvested about 3 miles north of Eagle Bluff, he said. That deer was a mature buck.
The landowner shooting program begins today, Hildebrand said. So far, 260 landowner permits had been written as of Friday night, and the DNR will continue to write permits through Feb. 12.
“Talking with the landowners, there will be a lot of participation with this hunt,” Hildebrand said. “We had folks getting on the list before the big public meeting.”
Hildebrand said he appreciates all the hunters showing up to help the DNR in its efforts to survey and contain CWD in Minnesota. “They’ve provided a lot of samples,” he said. “We can’t thank them enough.”
Any firearm that is legal for shooting deer in Minnesota will be allowed during the landowner shooting program, he said, though landowners will determine which weapons will be allowed on their own land. The hunt will go each day from half an hour before sunrise to half an hour after sunset.
One hunter who has been back several times to help harvest sample deer is Michael Hulburt, who has driven down from his home near Rock Dell to shoot on private land during the Dec. 31 to Jan. 15 hunt.
“I got two today, and one during the first weekend (of the special hunt),” he said. “It needs to be done. What happens if it spreads and wipes out the herds?” With so many deer harvested this year, Hulburt said he plans to give a lot of meat to his friends. “I love doing it.”