ST. PAUL — Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officials said they're gearing up for the fall 2021 firearm deer hunting season and urging hunters to make a plan to test for chronic wasting disease before they go out into the field.

Less than two weeks before opening day for the firearm hunting season, DNR Wildlife Section Manager Kelly Straka on Wednesday, Oct. 27, told lawmakers that hunters in some regions of the state will have to prepare for mandatory sampling for the fatal brain disease in deer over opening weekend.

“I realize it is a change for hunters, it may be an insurmountable change for some hunters, but (we recommend) making sure that you make a plan," Straka said.

Hunters can't transport deer carcasses from CWD management areas, where there have been multiple reports of CWD in free-ranging deer until they get a negative test for CWD. The department has provided an exception that allows hunters or others to transport processed parts of the carcass before a test result comes back if they follow DNR guidance. Department officials also advise hunters and others to use designated dumpsters for unused portions.

With state lab test turn-around times running at about seven days, Straka asked Minnesotans to postpone plans for cooking and eating their venison.

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"I would love to tell people that we’ll have results back in a week but the reality is that we’re a little bit at the mercy of the labs and how fast they can operate, so I tell people to plan for longer if you can," she said. "I realize it’s hard, I do, but we do recommend not to consume anything until you’ve got those test results."

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And that is likely to push back the timeline for butchering and cooking venison for hunters going out in CWD management zones.

“I guess we’ll probably be butchering over Thanksgiving break,” said Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn, DFL-Roseville,. Becker-Finn noted that she hunts around the Beltrami County area.

DNR officials are running mandatory testing over the opening weekend to trace chronic wasting disease in areas where it has been previously reported and to prevent its spread. Voluntary testing will continue throughout the hunting season at stations around the state. And hunters can track reported cases of CWD at the DNR's website.

Firearm hunting season begins Nov. 6.

You can learn more about the department's deer permit areas, CWD regulations and other guidance at the DNR website, mndnr.com/cwd.

Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter @bydanaferguson, call 651-290-0707 or email dferguson@forumcomm.com