Every fall, my husband, David, and our beloved black lab, Pearl, head out to eastern North Dakota for their annual duck hunting trip. Although I miss them terribly, I know that they both love this trip. Pearl is one heck of a retriever and my husband’s a pretty good shot. We love to share the fruits of this hunt with friends and neighbors.

While that specific hunting excursion may be over for the two of them, another one is just getting started here in Wisconsin. Rifle season is upon us and if you’re a hunter, perhaps you’ve already restocked your freezer with fresh venison for the year by the time you’re reading this. Or you’ve already sat down for a thanksgiving meal with your friends and family members. Regardless of how you choose to spend your time this winter, I hope it’s safe for those that you love and care about.

Safety is definitely on my mind when it comes to hunting. In addition to worrying about loved ones out hunting, I also worry about the safety and wellbeing of our deer herd. So far Northern Wisconsin has been lucky in that Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), a degenerative and fatal brain ailment that spreads among deer and similar species, has not decimated our herd in the way that it has done in other parts of the state.

This year, further precautions are in place so that hunters can have peace of mind that any deer they harvest is not afflicted with CWD. If it is discovered to be infected, the deer carcass can be disposed of in a way so that it cannot infect any further deer in the local area. There are numerous stations throughout Northern Wisconsin where harvested deer can be tested and if necessary, properly disposed of. For a list of these locations, I encourage you to either call your local DNR station or go to https://dnr.wi.gov/wmcwd/RegStation.

In the spirit of the season, I’m thankful that the DNR is being proactive when it comes to managing this disease. Down in Madison, I have been working with my colleagues in the democratic caucus to pass legislation that would authorize even more testing kiosks throughout the state, but unfortunately our efforts have been unsuccessful. I hope that with the New Year, we as legislators can find a way to cut through the partisan gridlock and do more to understand and combat this disease.

I’m looking forward to celebrating Thanksgiving with my husband, my daughters and their husbands, and my grandchildren. And Pearl is looking forward to grabbing whatever food she can from under the table.  I hope everyone has a safe and festive Thanksgiving holiday!

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