DNR Commissioner among half-million Minnesotans getting ready for deer hunting firearms opener Saturday

Minnesota’s firearms deer hunting season opener is Saturday morning. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources expects nearly 500,000 hunters will take part. One of them will be DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen.

"I am a deer hunter," said Strommen. "I typically get out at least part of the season so I’m looking forward to the season this year. And my son is participating in his first youth hunting season."

According to the DNR, deer hunting license sales are up 14% compared to 2019 and fishing license sales are up 10%, which is about 102,000 more than last year. A total of 1,117,187 Minnesotans have purchased fishing licenses in 2020.

"I think one of the things that has become really obvious through a pandemic is that Minnesotans found connecting to the outdoors and spending time in the outdoors was a really good way to step away from stress and anxiety the virus has caused in our daily lives; especially folks working at home, it’s a healthy and safe way to get out of the house and enjoy some outdoor activity," said Strommen.

As part of the DNR’s COVID-19 response, chronic wasting disease sampling is voluntary in select deer hunting zones where CWD has been found.

DNR asks deer hunters to submit samples in CWD areas

"I want to emphasize addressing the CWD problem that we have here in Minnesota continues to be strong priority for DNR," said Strommen. "The reason we are changing from mandatory to voluntary is due to the COVID-19 pandemic and simply as a way to limit people-to-people contact needed in that testing. And so it will be voluntary there will be places where folks can drop their deer heads in boxes so we can take the samples or if that doesn’t work you can make an appointment."

When Gov. Tim Walz appointed Strommen as DNR commissioner, she became the first woman to lead the agency that protects our state’s land, water, fish and wildlife. She realizes the importance of her position.

"To me, it serves as a reminder that it’s important to think about who is not at the table, so part of what I think about, being the first woman commissioner, is less about being the first but more about why am I the first, right?" Strommen said. "Because we know that a lot of women are outdoorsy. Women make up the fastest-growing segment of hunters. Women make the majority of buying decisions when it comes to vacationing and where the family spends the time so really in some ways it’s a natural fit that a woman would serve in this role."

According to the DNR, a successful hunt requires planning. No matter what area hunters are in, there are some key things to think about before heading to deer camp.

Buying a license starts with deciding what deer permit area you will be hunting in and then buying the appropriate license.

You should know the regulations for your deer permit area, including how to register deer and how harvested deer must be handled and transported in certain areas to help prevent the potential spread of disease.

Be safe. Practice the four tenets of firearms safety, know how to set up and use the tree stand safely, wear a safety harness and wear blaze clothing.

Take appropriate measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Follow precautions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, including staying home if feeling sick, minimizing stops when traveling to deer camp, washing hands often, keeping a 6-foot distance, and wearing a mask in indoor public spaces and businesses and in other indoor or outdoor settings if you can’t maintain physical distance from those outside of your immediate household.

Enjoy the hunt! Have fun, make memories and keep the tradition alive. Share deer camp and deer hunting photos directly with the DNR or on your social media accounts using the hashtag #DeerCampMN. You can also submit your photos to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.