Pandemic forcing hunters to prepare for some changes in firearms deer opener

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources expects more than half a million people to go hunting this weekend.

The firearms deer hunting season kicks off on Saturday. But the pandemic is having an impact on the sport.

"This year’s going to look a little different than it has in the past years," said Rod Smith, Director of Enforcement with the Minnesota DNR.

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Smith reminds that masks are key when inside shelters or shacks, and if possible try and hunt with only members of your immediate household.

"Deer camps are going to have to make some changes to make sure they minimize some of the risk," Smith said.

Plus, something else that’s new this season is that chronic wasting disease sampling is voluntary and not mandatory in certain deer hunting zones.

"We’re still strongly encouraging people to please bring in samples of your deer because CWD has not taken time off during COVID," Smith said.

The pandemic could help hunting participation. In fact, the DNR says deer hunting license sales are up 14 percent compared to last year.

"If there is a silver lining to COVID-19 we are seeing people get outdoors more," Smith said.

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

Craig Engwall is the Executive Director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association. He believes we’ll see even more new hunters this year.

"Because people are limited in what they can do, it’s good for them to get outside and do things," he said.

The annual tradition for many families might look a bit different this year, but with warm temperatures this weekend, hunters are ready to take to the woods.

"I think there will be a lot more people out and I hope they realize by doing this maybe they’ve rekindled their interest, maybe they were away from doing it for 20 years and we hope to retain them," Engwall said.

For more information on the firearms opener and getting a license, visit the link here.