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Luke Nelson, 10, of Two Harbors shot his first buck on opener morning. The six-pointer, which weighed 156 pounds, was the first deer to walk by his stand Saturday morning. He was accompanied by both of his grandfathers, Craig Ronning and Stan Nelson, and also uncle Branding Siligjord. Luke is the son of Todd and Samantha Johnson.

Deer numbers rise as season comes to close

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Northeastern Minnesota deer hunters appear to be doing a little better than last fall, according to Tom Rusch, Department of Natural Resources area wildlife manager at Tower.

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"Preliminary deer registration figures indicate the harvest is up slightly over 2009," Rusch wrote.

He sent along registration figures that compare the first 10 days of this fall's season to the same period last fall. Rusch offers one disclaimer: Because permit area boundaries have changed in many parts of the area he covers, it's hard to compare this year's numbers to last year's.

The boundaries of permit areas 178 and 122 are the same as last year. In 178, the 10-day harvest is 4,284 this year compared to 3,999 last year. That area is just south of Hibbing and Virginia down to Meadowlands. In 122 (the Hoyt Lakes/Skibo/Brimson area), this year's harvest is 759, compared to 592 last year.

This year's 176 and 177 permit areas compare roughly to last year's permit area 175. This year's figures are 3,699 in 176/177, compared to 1,984 in last year's area 175. Rusch said the harvest in 176/177 appears to be up substantially because 177 was changed from a "lottery" management area to an "intensive" management area, allowing the taking of many more antlerless deer. In area 177, 54 percent of the deer registered were antlerless, Rusch said.

A total of 11,633 deer were registered in northern St. Louis and Lake counties through mid-day Tuesday, Rusch said. Of those, 64 percent were bucks and 36 percent were antlerless deer, about average for mid-season, he said.

"Field reports indicate good deer movement as the breeding phase of the whitetail rut is now occurring," Rusch said. "Hunting conditions changed drastically over the second weekend, as a major snowstorm moved through the area and dumped 3 to 12 inches of snow. Hunters reported good rutting activity in some areas, particularly before and after the storm, for those who were on stand putting up with Mother Nature's early winter weather event."

The 16-day firearms deer season ended Sunday. Muzzleloader season opens Saturday.

License sales high

Sales of Minnesota firearms deer licenses hit 445,500 last week. That's about 8,000 over last year's sales at the same time and about 1,000 over the same period in 2008. This year's sales to date rank as the highest in the past decade, just ahead of those in 2000 and 2001.

Turkey applications due

Applications for Minnesota's spring wild turkey hunt are due Jan. 14. In past years, the deadline had been in December.

Deer OK in Wisconsin

Final test results were negative for a white-tailed deer on a northwestern Wisconsin hunting preserve suspected of having chronic wasting disease, state veterinarian Dr. Robert Ehlenfeldt said last week.

The test result, which means the deer did not have CWD, was a relief to hunters during last weekend's firearms season opener.

The National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa, reported the test results late Tuesday, according to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Ehlenfeldt released the quarantine that had been in place since Nov. 4 for the hunting preserve and an associated deer breeding farm.

The 3-year-old buck was routinely tested after being killed by a hunter Oct. 18 in Bayfield County. Initial screening tests at the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory were reported positive Nov. 4. The Wisconsin lab sent the samples to the national laboratory for confirmation, and those more precise tests did not detect CWD.

Initial screening tests are deliberately over-sensitive, so they sometimes yield false positives, according to the Agriculture Department.

To date, more than 27,600 farm-raised deer have been tested in Wisconsin, according to the department. Of those, 97 were positive for CWD on eight farms and hunting preserves - 82 on a single Portage County operation, where legal action delayed destruction of the herd for more than three years after the initial case was found. All infected herds have been destroyed.

There has not been a new case of CWD detected in a farm-raised animal for two years, the department said. The Ashland-area farm where the false positive test was produced has never had a confirmed positive CWD test, according to the department.

Naturalist training

The University of Minnesota Duluth is hosting a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer Training starting Jan. 11 and ending May 3.

Master Naturalist volunteers complete a 40-hour hands-on course with expert instructors and fellow learners - studying natural history, environmental interpretation, and conservation stewardship. Final certification comes with the completion of 40 hours of volunteer service.

The program offers three courses that correspond to Minnesota's three major ecosystems: "Big Woods, Big Rivers," "Prairies and Potholes," and "Northwoods, Great Lakes."

The course will cover the natural and cultural history of the region. It will provide an in-depth overview of the boreal forest ecosystem and participants will observe and learn about the variety of plant and animal communities of the region.

The classes will go 6-9 p.m. Tuesdays Jan. 11-May 3. Saturday field trips fall on Feb. 19 and April 30. The cost for the course is $200, including materials. Scholarships are available.

Larry Weber, an award-winning teacher, author, phenologist; and John Geissler, director of Boulder Lake Environmental Learning Center will lead the classes. For more, visit www.boulderlake.org or www.d.umn.edu/maps/ BagC/info.html.

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