New this firearms deer season: governor’s opener in metro, DNR adds special CWD regulations

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Thousands of hunters kicked off Minnesota’s firearms deer season Saturday morning, and more are expected to join in throughout the day.

For the first time, the Governor’s Deer Hunting Opener was in the Twin Cities metro area.

“We’re standing out here waiting, and 7:31 we heard one single shot, and so it was like okay, the day has started,” said Kelly Straka, Wildlife Section Manager with the DNR.

This year, hunters joined Gov. Tim Walz at the 4,900-acre Elm Creek Park within the Three Rivers Park District.

“So it’s like, I know I wake up early, but I have to get up earlier, and it’s like I don’t want to sleep through it, it’s that anticipation,” said John Moriarty, Senior Manager of Wildlife.

Moriarty is also the Senior Manager of Wildlife at the Three Rivers Park District, and he helped check people in bright and early knowing all too well it was going to be busy.

“It’s our most intense hunt we do,” Moriarty said.

On a day where 400,000 people are expected to hunt across the state, about 125 of them spent the deer opener at this location. 

“Hunting is often time steeped in tradition, we have people that have hunted with their grandparents, their parents, all the way up through generations,” Straka said.

Also new this year are special Chronic Wasting Disease regulations, including mandatory testing and carcass movement restrictions. The contagious disease is always fatal and has been detected on several Minnesota deer and elk farms in the past few decades, according to the DNR.

Learn everything you need to know about Minnesota deer hunting here.

If you’re not a hunter but you want to learn and make it part of your family tradition, the DNR says there are plenty of learning opportunities out there.

“We get a lot of interest in new hunters that are coming on board and want to know a little bit more about it,” Straka said.

Inside the Eastman Nature Center, people have a chance to learn and ask questions about topics like new hunter programs, chronic wasting disease and alternative ammunition.

“There’s people from Lead Free Minnesota, which is a group trying to educate people about non-toxic ammunition because lead bullets left in the environment is dangerous to wildlife,” Moriarty said.

It’s a Minnesota tradition that the folks at the Deer Hunting Opener hope is passed down for generations to come.