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DNR, health department urge hunters to follow COVID-19 precautions

Published: Nov. 18, 2020 at 7:34 PM CST
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - Gun deer season begins Saturday, and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Marathon County Health Department want to remind hunters about the importance of staying safe this year.

The DNR is expecting there to be a significant increase of hunters out this year compared to 2019.

This means folks need to be more aware of their surroundings and remember COVID-19 safety precautions.

“As we move closer to the nine day deer season, people just get excited because this is a big time of year, I mean this is Wisconsin this is what we do,” Wisconsin DNR Recreation Warden Mark Little said.

As more hunters flock to the great outdoors this weekend, it’s vital to be mindful of others because this year is far from normal.

“There’s a lot of things that we don’t know about COVID, but we do know is that it doesn’t care about who you are or what traditions you have,” Melissa Moore of the Marathon County Health Department said. “It cares about what you do, it can spread so quickly within groups which is why hunting season may be a little bit more troublesome.”

When you’re out hunting, Moore said it can’t be hunting as usual and hunters need to social distance, wear a mask and try to limit your group to just immediate family.

“One of the things that we want people to do is plan ahead. While outdoor activities continue to be encouraged during the pandemic, hunting traditions such as deer camps or other gatherings for example can increase that risk of coming in contact with the virus,” Moore said.

It’s also a good idea to hunt close to home to limit your amount of contact with potential carriers of COVID-19.

The DNR is expecting more hunting licenses to be sold this year than the past due to the pandemic, which Little said is one positive outcome the pandemic has brought.

However, it’s key to be alert of potential conflicts with other hunters.

“You really want to be conscious of where other people are and work those things out ahead of time so you don’t bump into someone in the woods unaware or opening morning especially as the sun comes up and you see another hunter very close to you,” little said.

As hunters look to target the right deer for dinner to get the venison on the table, always be sure to let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll be home.

It’s also important to dress for the weather and make sure your cell phone is charged.

“A lot of folks are just going to have the extra time and ability to get out now and so I think we’re going to see a lot more hunters and it’s just going to be a great season,” Little said.

The DNR said it’s best to buy your hunting license as soon as possible online.

With Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) prevalent in Wisconsin, the DNR is encouraging hunters to drop off deer heads at their service centers to test for CWD.

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