PARK RAPIDS -- Many deer hunters believe that they can improve their chances of bagging a deer, especially during the rutting season, by using attractants such as doe-in-heat and other urine-based solutions. In certain situations, they actually can divert a deer’s attention and sometimes that diversion can give a hunter the opportunity to take the shot.

Hunters who plan to hit the woods this season in some north-central Minnesota counties, including Hubbard, Cass and Wadena, will not have the benefit of those attractants, however, as Minnesota Department of Natural Resource officials have banned their use for the 2019 season.

The decision to prohibit the attractants is part of the battle against chronic wasting disease (CWD). Recently, CWD was found in a wild deer that was living in Crow Wing County and, in an attempt to limit the risk of deer transmitting that disease, the use of attractants has been banned in counties that surround Crow Wing. Also prohibited is any deer feeding (see page 86 of the Minnesota hunting regulations booklet for more information.)

“We are concerned that we had a wild CWD positive deer in Crow Wing County,” said Erik Thorson, who is the Park Rapids area DNR wildlife supervisor. “Having a CWD positive wild deer in Crow Wing County is a serious concern because we hadn’t had any positive wild deer (this far north) and having one in Crow Wing County is too close for comfort for us.

“We want to get on CWD early and be very aggressive in our approach (to slow its spread,” he added.

Hunters who hit the stands and blinds in the Park Rapids area should be able to find deer without the use of attractants as this year’s population appears to be healthy and should include deer of all ages and sizes.

Permit area 259 surrounds Akeley and continually is home to good numbers of deer. It also is filled with blaze orange clad hunters on opening weekend.

Good numbers in area

Last season area 259 attracted 14 hunters per square mile and they enjoyed a success rate of 31 percent. The harvest included 1,018 bucks, 752 does and 352 fawns. Counting the archery and muzzleloader harvest, hunters killed 2,310 deer in area 259.

This year hunters will be allowed one deer but, because it is under the hunter’s choice management scheme, that deer can be either a buck or an antlerless animal.

To the west, permit area 241 has been designated as an intensive harvest area and hunters will be allowed to take up to three deer.

“It has been a producer of deer over the years and there should be good deer numbers again,” Thorson said. “We certainly had a somewhat significant winter (the Winter Severity Index was 108), but we also have good food sources with agriculture and woody cover, so the deer seem to handle winter very well.”

Much of area 241 is under private ownership but there are 27.5 square miles of public land that hunters may also utilize. On opening weekend new hunters may find few trails that haven’t been claimed but later in the season, the crowd thins and spots become available.

“After the early part of the season, you can find areas that don’t have much hunting pressure,” Thorson said. “So don’t be scared if you see the army of orange the first weekend because they won’t be in the woods too long.”

Coming later in the season probably will be worth the wait because the deer population appears to be strong in area 241.

“(The area) sees pretty good fawn production and good fawn survival in the summer,” Thorson said. “We did get some reports last fall of lower deer numbers, and our harvest was down 16 percent last year, but we still have some of the highest deer densities in the state. This year we are staying the course on our deer management and we will see how the harvest responds.”

For more information on the deer hunting scene in the Park Rapids area, contact the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/hunting.