Deer season notebook: Bovine TB update

As of Thursday, the Department of Natural Resources was more than halfway to its goal of sampling 1,000 deer for bovine tuberculosis in northwestern Minnesota.

As of Thursday, the Department of Natural Resources was more than halfway to its goal of sampling 1,000 deer for bovine tuberculosis in northwestern Minnesota.

According to Dr. Michelle Carstenson, Wildlife Health Program coordinator for the DNR, two "suspect" deer have been collected for more extensive testing so far. The deer, both adult bucks, were shot within three miles of Skime, Minn., the core area where bovine TB first was found in cattle herds in 2005.

The hunters who shot the bucks were issued replacement tags, she said.

As of Thursday, Carstenson said, staff and veterinary students working at 10 registration stations had collected lymph node samples from 560 deer.

That's ahead of last year at this time, she said, and brings the total number of deer sampled since 2005 to more than 2,500. Of that total, 13 deer have tested positive for bovine TB, a number that will rise to 15 if the two latest suspect deer ultimately test positive.


Carstenson, who's been working in northwest Minnesota since opening weekend, said crews conceivably could be collecting samples in permit areas where deer season is open three weeks if they don't hit their goal of 1,000 deer this weekend.

Check stations set up for sampling are located in Warroad, Salol, Roseau, Wannaska, Hayes Lake State Park, Skime, Fourtown, Grygla and Goodridge, Minn., Carstenson said.

No other deer besides the two bucks have been "red flagged" as potentially suspicious, she said. Carstenson says hunters also appear to be taking advantage of the $2.50 bonus anterless tags that are available in Permit Area 101, the core area surrounding Skime. Hunters can buy an unlimited number of bonus tags in the core area.

Opening weekend

success is down

Hunting success during the first three days of Minnesota's firearms deer season was down from last year.

According to numbers from the DNR, hunters had registered 91,000 deer statewide as of Monday. That's down from 95,000 last year at this time.

The trend also seems to be holding true in northwestern Minnesota. According to Ted Dick, wildlife habitat specialist for the DNR in Baudette, Minn., hunters in the Baudette work area had registered 1,674 deer as of Monday, down 16 percent from last year, when hunters registered 1,994 deer the first three days of season.


The number is a bit deceiving, though, Dick said, because this was the first year an early anterless season was offered in permit areas 105 and 111, which are part of the work area. Add in the 294 deer shot during the early antlerless hunt, and this year's numbers are comparable to 2006, Dick said.

Since the advent of electronic licensing, most area wildlife offices no longer tally registrations from the first three days of season. Still, anecdotal reports appear to mirror the numbers Dick compiled.

Randy Prachar, manager of Thief Lake Wildlife Management Area near Middle River, Minn., said blustery weather Sunday and Monday seemed to curtail hunting pressure.

Rough numbers show hunters in the Thief Lake work area had registered slightly more than 1,100 deer the first three days of the season. Prachar didn't have numbers from the first three days of 2006, but he said hunters in the area registered just under 2,600 during last year's firearms deer season.

The Thief Lake work area includes check stations in Roseau, Badger, Greenbush, Strathcona, Middle River and Wannaska, Minn.

"I think the deer probably went into heavier cover, and (hunting) activity was reduced in places," Prachar said. "It depends on where you were. Some places said hunting was slow, and there were other places where they seemed to be clicking right along."

Typical violations

DNR conservation officers said the violations they encountered opening weekend seemed to run the gamut - everything from trespassing and shooting from the road, to baiting and wildlife management area violations.


"We even had at least one, and possibly two people making complaints that they had bullets fly by them or in close proximity," said Pat Znajda, district enforcement supervisor for the DNR's Baudette work area. "But we've also had a few of hunters not wearing orange out in the field."

Based on the complaints officers have received, Znajda said baiting - which is illegal for deer hunting in Minnesota - appears to be prevalent, despite enforcement efforts to crack down on the practice.

"Some people are trying to be a little smarter about it," Znajda said. "Instead of piling up (the bait), they spread it out so it's harder to see from the air. We still run across it quite a bit, and we're seeing it on both private land and public land."

Znajda said officers also have encountered hunters who have shot bucks and tagged them with bonus antlerless tags, hoping to keep the buck tag for future use, and instances where hunters have shot smaller does and fawns and then left them to lay.

"Some have been dressed," Znajda said. "I would assume they're dumping them because they're looking for a bigger doe or whatever because of limited numbers of deer."

Heavy hauling

Stuart Bensen, conservation officer for the DNR in Erskine, Minn., said he got a workout opening weekend when he helped a hunter retrieve a buck that had run about 300 yards into a thick, swampy area before dying. That buck had a 19-inch inside spread on the rack, Bensen said, and likely will score at least 155.

As for the weight, well. . . .


"I'm sure it weighed at least 1,000 pounds," Bensen joked. "Every four feet it got about 10 pounds heavier, but we got it out of there for him."

Overall, Bensen said, hunting activity appeared to be down. He speculates the early antlerless seasons could be a factor.

"It's taken the spark and charisma out of the regular deer season," Bensen said. "They say, it's not that special anymore. I always compare it to easy blueberries. Up north, they taste so good because you only have them a certain amount of time. The more you can have it, the less special it becomes."

N.D. up next

North Dakota's deer gun season was just getting under way as the Saturday Outdoors pages were being produced for press. Look for more updates from the North Dakota opener next Saturday.

And if you've got any story ideas or tales about your hunting experiences, contact Brad Dokken, the Herald's outdoors editor, at (701) 780-1148 or by e-mail at .

Reach Dokken at 780-1148, (800) 477-6572 ext. 148, or .

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