The Outdoors

By Scott Rall, Outdoors Columnist

I have purchased a deer license every year for the past 37 years and this year was the first year that I actually filled my tag. I purchased my deer license before Sept. 1 and this automatically enrolls you in the doe lottery. In Minnesota every hunter that buys a deer license can shoot a buck. You have to be successfully drawn from a special lottery, depending on where you live, in order to be able to harvest a doe.  Overall deer populations are managed primarily by managing the number of does that remain after all of the deer seasons are completed for the year. 

When there are high doe populations this means lots of offspring the following spring. The less does in the population, the less offspring that can be produced to replenish the deer that were harvested by hunters. The tough part is getting an accurate count of how many deer actually exist in any one area. This effort is the topic of much debate in deer hunter conversations.

I bought a license and was drawn for a doe tag. This allowed me to shoot a deer of either sex. I had a friend call me from Madison, Wis., and ask if I was going deer hunting this season. I told him I was but wondered why he was interested. 

He explained to me that 50% of all the deer shot in his home turf have chronic wasting disease. This is such a deep topic so I will cover the CWD issue in a later column. But for most, if not the majority of hunters, they will not eat a deer that has this disease. All deer infected with CWD will eventually die from it. According to my sources, there is no link between eating a CWD infected deer and human illness, but for most hunters it does not matter. The issue you have is that when you do test a harvested deer you remove the lymph nodes and send them in for testing. The results take 2-3 weeks to receive back. This means that you have to keep your deer refrigerated until the test comes back.

Nobody I know has a walk-in cooler big enough to hold all the deer one hunting party might harvest while waiting for test results. He asked that if I harvested a deer would I be willing to share it with him. I responded absolutely. I called my son, who for the past 13 years lived in Denver and recently moved back to the great state of South Dakota, if he would be willing to help out our mutual friend as well. He also said absolutely. Now I had a reason to fill a tag.

This all brings me to this one big question. Could you have imagined that there would be a time where you would not be able to eat the deer you shot in SW Minnesota? CWD is real and it is spreading across the state slowly but surely. There is really no substantial movement on the behalf of the Minnesota legislature to fund any real effort to contain or slow the spread of CWD. 

Topic for yet another column. We did fill our two tags. We registered these kills by phone. The registration process asks date, location and what time the harvest took place in addition to the sex and if it was an adult or fawn. With the registrations completed, I watched Gary do an extraordinary job of processing these two deer. 

Me and Brandon kept a few packages and my Wisconsin neighbor friend who was not able to eat a deer for the past decade could finally enjoy some venison. My time spent in the stand with my son is certainly the highlight of this story. He and his twin sister Brittany both grew up in a hunting and fishing family. When they were little my wife worked 3 p.m.-midnight at the hospital so the only way for me to participate was to take the kids along every time. 

Neither of the deer we harvested would make for a sensational story but the time spent together is a story I will always cherish. Hunting generally results in meat in the freezer but in my world that only accounts for about 10% of the experience. 

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