Brooks' Blog

Will there be CWD testing in MN next year?

I hope not.

In 2016 the MN DNR emptied our deer feeding/disease account spending $600,000 on CWD testing in SE Minnesota.

Only deer in zone 3 were tested.

They did not test the ‘high risk’ animals that are hit by cars or found dead.  Our state agencies did pick lots of these higher risk deer and dump them on public lands, a known way to spread CWD.

We did ban carcass imports, but we did not request any help from other agencies or spend any cash to enforce the carcass ban. We did not spend the $400 per week to rent blinking road signs or similar to let hunters know there was a carcass ban.  Dirty carcasses from states east, west, and south of us rolled across state lines to be dumped in the woods, a known way to spread CWD.  Hunter or agency dumped CWD infected carcasses were announced by a USDA investigator as the likely cause of the new positives in SE Minnesota.

The DNR did a nice job of generating an irrational fear of CWD with their PR campaign.  They even got the states press to print stories with bad information about CWD, and have been spreading undocumented information about CWD’s affect on other states deer herds.  Maybe its all just a play for more money.  MDHA started years back as a group to feed deer in harsh winters.  Now all that money is used for CWD testing and sharpshooters.

Wisconsin has spent $55 million on CWD.  They could not eliminate the disease.  Hunter reaction to failed a plan with sharpshooters and herd reduction had them drift to a more passive approach.  Deer hunting in CWD hot spots of southern Wisconsin is often better now than in 2002 when the disease was first detected.  Deer land is fetching $5,000 per acre in many of the CWD hot zones.

Illinois has employed sharpshooters since 2002, and their prevalence rates and number of affected counties continues to grow.

For 2017 the MN DNR is requesting $1.5 million for CWD testing and sharpshooting.  They will find more CWD.  The $600,000 we threw at the ‘spark’ and SE Minnesota will not contain the disease.  No state has ever beat back CWD when multiple wild positives are found.  CWD is here and it will be affecting more and more counties in Minnesota.  Its spreading all across the country, and our plans bucket is full of holes that may never be plugged.

Testing and sharpshooting has proven extremely unpopular with the hunting public.  It has also solved nothing in the states that have tried it.  Aggressive CWD plans erode the hunter experience, and they have not been shown to slow the geographic spread of the disease.  Will history repeat here in Minnesota- or will we learn form what other states have already experienced?



Genetic resistance to CWD won't catch Lou quoting these scholars.

Should we give the DNR $1.5 million for their outdated CWD action plan, or is it time to stop the madness?

Stacie Robinson and co-authors from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Alberta-Edmonton reported in the journal “Ecological Applications” that 41% of deer from the CWD core area of Wisconsin demonstrated resistance to CWD. Not only were the resistant deer four times less likely to contract CWD, but if they did become infected, advanced infection of the brain stem was 12 times lower, and they lived 49% longer than the disease-susceptible deer.

Furthermore, due to lowered infection and mortality, deer with the resistant genotypes had a significant reproductive advantage. This advantage would drive natural selection toward a predominantly CWD-resistant population within 250 years at low infection rates and within 50 years at high infection rates.

The authors stated these genetic differences in disease dynamics have not been previously documented, accounted for in management planning or considered in current CWD models.

These genetic resistance findings were not available when Illinois instituted its sharpshooting program but certainly should be considered now. Culling randomly removes CWD-resistant deer as well as reducing the selective pressure toward resistance caused by the diseased deer. Although evolutionary change is slow by our standards, nature has done a better job than people ever will at building a better deer. High CWD infection rates in some areas of the state translate to greater selective pressure and evolution toward disease resistance.

The bottom line: Let Mother Nature’s passive plan of natural selection already in progress control CWD. Culling by sharpshooters and aggressive herd reduction may reap hypothesized temporary benefits but will slow natural selection and permanent evolutionary change toward CWD-resistant deer.

On Jan. 22, the state Natural Resources Board approved recommendations from the Deer Trustees Report including what has erroneously been called “passive management.” That same night in Mount Horeb, where the costly CWD war in Wisconsin all began, I met with a group of hunters and we rejoiced: Aggressive measures to control CWD finally ended. Mother Nature and her deer had won.

Hunting not part of the MN Deer Plan?

How does that work?

Here is an update on the deer planning process.  There won’t be anything about hunting in it.

Management decisions concerning whitetail deer are made for the general public.  Deer hunters represent about 9% of the general public.  Minority stakeholder. The deer plan will be written without hunting.

What does that mean to you as a hunter?



Always Fatal White Nose Syndrome (WNS) in Bats

... Minnesota DNR reacts

The disease is named for the white fungal growth observed on infected bats. It is not known to pose a threat to humans, pets, livestock or other wildlife.

“We know very little about white-nose sydrome,” quipped DNR’s Bat Expert Lou Cornicelli “but funding is limited and we think the best approach is to follow our wildly popular CWD plan for whitetail deer.  We will be shooting lots of bats and then testing to see what shakes out.  Hopefully we can cherry pick some data and find a reason to keep moving forward.”

Thousands of bats will be shot to keep them alive.

We asked Lou if he thought killing the bats would eliminate WNS.  “We most certainly don’t want to go the route Wisconsin did.  They have bats everywhere.  Paul Telander counted over 60 bats in the dugout at a Milwaukee Brewers game last summer.”

Minnesota is home to 1 million bats, and landowner permits are available free of charge.  Lead free shotgun shells will provided to interested parties along with ear plugs as some of the best shooting occurs deep underground in mining caves and silo missiles.  “We are asking the public to please not shoot toward the actual missiles” Cornicelli said,  “They are pretty expensive and the decals are hard to find online if they get shot up.”

To learn more or to see a map of where all the missile silos in Minnesota are located, go to the DNR’s bat research page at kill the

Darkhouse spearing is next.



Cost effective land clearing

President Johnson found a bargain

Members of MNBowhunters Inc can cash in a negotiated stump clearing contract procured by President Brooks Johnson.  $400 per hour or $650 per acre with a 5 acre minimum.

MNBowhunter exclusive savings

This is a central Minnesota stump or low brush price, not a mature timber mulching.

If you have been looking for a way to add trails or plots to land in central Minnesota, this is a tremendous value for a Vermeer mulched area that is ready to plant, drive or whatever.  Call around and you will find most companies are charging twice these amounts.

You have to be an MBI member in good standing to be eligible.

MN Deer License Fee Hikes

Best to wait 1 more year and see what the deer plan produces.

MN DNR is going in the Red

The agency tasked with managing our states wildlife is looking for some budget help.  They are spending more than they collect in license revenue.  Minnesota nice may approve the increases, but I think we should dig a little deeper.

For the past year, our states deer team has been deflecting questions related to deer management by saying ‘we are working on the states first deer plan.’  They can wait for the fee increase discussion until that plan is penned.  This deer plan is big picture of our next decade of deer management.  It is purported to be the tool of accountability and transparency in things related to Minnesota deer.  The deer plan will be written by the DNR with input from the public.  But the input can be ignored.  This deer plan will not be done until 2018, and unless it contains some significant changes, I don’t feel the deer hunters of MN should be shoveling any more money to the DNR.

Our states deer team has built a platform that lacks accountability to the group that funds it.  They should not be allowed to publicly state 96% of DNR spending benefits deer when an audit found 12% of whitetail license revenue is spent on deer.  I am not suggesting the hunters should dictate policy, but I believe the DNR should be held to publicly announced goals.  Goals need metrics to track progress.  Our DNR does not want these metrics.  Attempts to work with the DNR produced very little, and recommendations of a 2016 legislative audit are being largely ignored.  Our elected control DNR spending, and they can responsibly delay the fee hike until they see a deer plan that satisfies the audit suggestions.

A 2016 audit is loaded with suggestions to improve deer modeling in Minnesota. The audit recommendations require money the DNR does not plan to spend

License fee increases should only be approved if metrics of accountability to publicly announced goals are part of the deer plan.  Adequate herd monitoring including aerial surveys and other deer census activities.  Adequate double checks for legitimate deer modeling.  Tools to mitigate localized deer issues.  Staffing to micro manage these issues properly.  Etc.  These things will require more than the current 12% we spend on deer management, and our DNR has publicly stated they have zero plans to adds any new metrics of accountability.  They need to shift some resources into deer management.  12% of total gross license revenue is not working for the deer hunters of MN.  A $4 license fee increase is not going to do anything to move the needle on deer management or hunter satisfaction in Minnesota.  Lets wait until the deer team shows us they have real plans to solve these issues.  Lets not approve fee hikes until we have a deer plan loaded with the measurements that let the public track progress towards announced goals.

Moving on.

Only the deer hunters view Minnesota whitetails as an asset

When I sold Double Bull Blinds in 2007, my plan was to hunt closer to home.  I purchased land in Mille Lacs county, and leaned on some industry experts to set it up for deer.  Over time my friends and family knew they would see 2 to 12 deer every sit, and when muzzle loader season came I had Katie bar the door as 25 deer per evening was a real expectation.  Camera surveys showed 45 dpsm prehunt which is 2 or 3 times what the state manages for.  I bought my deer land for deer hunting, and it was good.

Double Bull exposed me to some tremendous archery opportunities.

But it was expensive to implement and maintain.  It was more than I needed, and I downsized to a 68 acre piece between Little Falls and Brainerd.  I looked at 51 parcels in central/eastern Minnesota until I found the piece that had what I wanted.  The land had a 6 foot deep 3 acre pond to culture for trophy game fish, and a neighborhood that did not excessively harvest antlerless deer.  The browse pressure of the local herd was evident.  I like lots of deer.  I bought the place.

I learned a lot while managing those deer woods near Onamia, and I was ready to move the needle higher on my new piece.  I hired Steve Bartylla to do a habitat plan, and I started getting quotes for the work to be done.  Most of the piece was a 5 year old aspen and red pine clear cut that offered lots of thick regeneration for the deer to bed in, but I knew I had to have more food to hold and see the numbers of deer I desired.  I needed to clear some regrowth and stumps for food plots.

Brooks Johnson Photo

Most good stories start with a plan. Steve Bartyllas deer habitat plans are second to none.

Much of the work was mental, and the rest was expensive.  Forestry head mulchers wanted $1,200 per acre to clear it to the dirt.  Dozer trackhoe combinations were a little more, and my pigs took too much time and attention.

Then I got a private message from a friend at regarding a local forester clearing stumps for $350 per acre.  He needed some more work to max out the weekly rental of the forestry head.  The estimate was 1/3 the price of any I had received.  I was in, and it made me think.  How could a guy like me that is immersed in habitat manipulation not realize the options that are available to the private land manager?  I had lucked into a group with similar needs that helped me realize my plan at at fraction the cost.  How much more was I missing?  How many more are in the same boat?

I long knew the problem, and now realized there was a solution.  Private landowners in Minnesota need to manage their own local herds to realize their goals, and MNBowhunters Inc could help them organize cost effective solutions.  So a new program has been spawned for members of MNBowhunters Inc.  Its a program that helps our members realize the potential of the grounds they hunt.  It can be as simple as a stand access/exit plan, or as complex as outsourcing contract work for projects on private parcels, and finding the programs that help with the cost sharing.

The social deer management our DNR implemented in the early 2000’s caters to the masses as it should.  As part of the 9% minority that hunt deer, realize that your picture of deer is different from those around you.  While your goal may be 40 deer per square mile, other interests would prefer zero.  Those majority interests are setting the policy.  We help MNBowhunters realize their dreams.   And the sky is only limited by your drive and means.

Cant wait for winter to do some northern pike spearing.

Genetic Resistance to CWD

Natures response to the disease?

Genotypes make a difference

Researchers have found that deer with different genes react differently to CWD exposure. The key gene at a location known as codon 225 can have one of three combinations of alleles respectively named SS, SF or FF, DeVivo said. All three are represented in the Converse herd.

mn cwd

If the DNR wants $1.5 million for CWD testing, will we spend some researching answers, or will it all be spent monitoring and killing deer.


The majority of mule deer today are SS, and they get infected at a higher rate, the study showed. “They are 30 times more likely to be CWD-positive compared to deer that had SF or FF,” she said.

Only one of 29 mule deer of the SF genotype turned up CWD positive. FF deer are rare — only two of the 143 captured had that genotype. Neither was infected with CWD.

Although DeVivo’s mathematical model predicted the herd would go extinct in 41 years, without accounting for genetic variations, that won’t actually happen because new deer are expected to move into the herd’s home range. When accounting for genetic variation, the study predicts the genetic mix of a surviving population will change over time.

“What I found was within a 100-year period we do see a significant increase in those less-susceptible genotype — where the FF becomes the dominant genotype,” she said. “I still model a significant decline in the population.”

What scientists don’t know is whether the FF genotype is rare because it also carries a disadvantage. For example, suppose FF does were somehow unattractive to bucks or turned out to be bad mothers.

“That’s the debate right now,” she said. “Just because it’s rare does not mean [it is] some adverse genotype. Since there was no selective pressure on it ’til now, it’s just a rare genotype.”

Her study captured two FF does, but data on them spans only one year, and the small sample size precludes scientific conclusions.

“They were not positive [for CWD,] they both were pregnant and they both recruited fawns,” she said. “It seemed like they were just as fit as any other deer in the population.”

Does this research translate from deer to elk?

DeVivo’s research doesn’t translate easily to elk. “We know they [elk] are very susceptible,” she said. But wild elk in Wyoming have not been decimated in the same way as Converse deer.

“For some reason in free-ranging populations [of elk] we just don’t see the same thing we see in captivity,” DeVivo said. “I don’t know if anyone knows why that is.”

One modeling study published last year predicted severe declines among feedground elk in Sublette County, even after hunting seasons are modified in the face of infection. That conclusion took into account an apparent difference in susceptibility among elk of three different genotypes.

Like the deer, elk are classified into three genotypes when considering their sensitivity to CWD, said Brant Schumaker, assistant professor at the University of Wyoming Department of Veterinary Sciences. About 70 percent in a herd are MM genotype elk and most susceptible. Most of the rest are ML genotypes and live slightly longer. The only LL elk in a decade-long Wyoming experiment hasn’t become infected. LL elk make up approximately 2 percent of a normal population.

In a 10-year experiment Schumaker took part in, Wyoming Game and Fish captured a band of 39 elk in Jackson Hole in 2002, relocated them to a southeast Wyoming facility, and exposed them to CWD. In 10 years, all the other elk in the group contracted CWD from infected pens and withered away at the Tom Thorne/Beth Williams Wildlife Research Center at Sybille.

But not the lone LL elk. Her ear tag is No. 12, but researchers nicknamed her Lucky. She’s had a calf, and doesn’t look sick or test positive for CWD.

mn cwd

Meet ‘Lucky’, the lone survivor of a CWD elk study in Wyoming who carries the rarest genotype. Is she resistant or immune to CWD?

Lucky, the 600 pound elk, has not caught CWD despite 13 years of exposure to the disease in a Game and Fish Department wildlife lab. Her rare genotype may make her resistant to the disease, possibly even immune. (Terry Kreeger/Wyoming Game and Fish Department)

“She is, if anything, overweight,” Schumaker said. “My understanding is that she’s kind of a pill from the caretakers’ perspective. She stands up for herself.”

Is Lucky the 600 lb. elk immune to CWD? Will Lucky’s LL cousins become the mothers of all future Wyoming elk once CWD runs its course? Does the LL genotype also carry some disadvantage scientists don’t know about?

Even once Lucky dies and is autopsied, Schumaker said, researchers won’t know for sure whether she is immune. A new experiment would be necessary to determine that.



MN CWD Response Plan

Quick blog to clear up some misperceptions of the MN CWD response plan.

Lou Cornicelli is telling our elected and deer leadership that his plan is to try and eliminate CWD from zone 603.  He is using mathematics and probability formulas as a guide.  Many are supporting this plan.

Laws of probability say the plan will fail.

Lets analyze the odds of him being successful.

Helicopters counted 11,000 some deer left in the CWD zone.  The plan is to kill enough of them to have 99% confidence in the prevalence rate.  If we find CWD in 1% of the deer tested (current zone 603 postive perectage), that is the prevalence rate in the wild population.  We will be 99% sure that 1% of the deer alive in zone 603 are CWD infected.

To eliminate the disease, we will have to shoot all 11,000 deer.  If we leave 100 deer alive in zone 603 odds says we will not have eliminated the disease.

But Lou says they have no plans to eradicate the deer, so his odds are going to drop.  Significantly.  Lou plans is to kill 25% of the deer, which will leave 8,250 deer alive in zone 603.

Lou’s odds of success are .0000009%.*  His odds are similar to flipping heads on a penny 166 times in a row.

And Lou’s wager on this bet is millions of dollars.

In if he wins the bet we won’t be able to cash out.  We don’t even know how the 6 deer that tested positive got infected.  We will still have deer walking in from Iowa and Wisconsin, and riding in the backs of pickup up trucks from every border.  But we will keep spending on a plan proven to fail in every state that has tried it.

Some in the DNR suspect infected carcasses may be responsible for the SE MN outbreak. As infection rates increase nationwide, we have no real action thats addresses the illegal import of infected carcasses deposited across the state every fall.  The disease will be found over and over again in the future.

This is not Pine Island where 1 positive was found.  The disease is established in zone 603, and history says it will continue to spread.  Illinois tried what Lou is attempting and CWD has spread to 16 Illinois counties.  Wisconsin tried what Lou is trying and the hunters of the state threw a coup and elected a governor that changed the way CWD is handled in Wisconsin. Some say the way Wisconsin of managing CWD is a train wreck yet land in the core of the endemic area fetches $3,000 to $5,000 on  a regular basis.

Lou is a pretty smart guy.  He understands statistics and probability.  He has calculated the odds of success.  Lou knows he won’t eradicate CWD in zone 603.  So what is Lou’s real agenda?  Why is he not being honest and forthright with the media, the public, and our elected?  His plan to eliminate the disease is mathematically impossible, and those supporting the plan with .0000009% odds of success should be asking those questions.

*using hypergeometric distribution


MN CWD Plan: Legitimate Science or Social Agenda?

CWD is back in the headlines and our DNR has put together a plan.

But is science the driving force, or is this a social agenda?

Science says no state with multiple CWD positives has ever eliminated CWD from the landscape.  MN CWD positive cervid farms were depopulated when disease was found, and in 2010 we established a CWD hotzone in response to a Pine Island doe.  6 years and several million dollars later CWD is back.  A similar CWD response program in Illinois has seen disease prevalence double since 2002.

Is the aggressive Illinois’ approach working?

Our DNR’s plan may slow the advance, but history says it wont stop it.

Illinois endemic zones have 15% of the adult deer testing positive.

Science says concentrated feed spreads CWD.  We banned feeding deer in multiple counties to eliminate areas deer congregate to feed and transmit disease.  We can still place salt blocks and mineral on the ground, where deer lick where another deer licks.  Maybe this will be addressed later.

Science says CWD infected carcasses spreads disease.  Our DNR done almost nothing to mitigate the flow of these contaminated deer into our state.  Thousands of dead deer come from CWD endemic areas of Wisconsin, Iowa etc every fall, and you won’t find one road sign educating the public that it is illegal, or why it can be harmful.  The public is unaware.

Our DNR and APR’s are protecting one of the biggest vectors for CWD transmission.  

Science says older bucks are the number one metric of CWD transmission.  A DNR decision to continue protecting yearling bucks in zone 3 flies in the face of any CWD mitigation program.  I am not anti APR, in fact I would like to see some yearling bucks protected where I own land (personal stance), but its hard to stomach spending millions on a CWD detection and response plan while protecting the number 1 vector of transmission.

Odds say both of these deer were illegal to shoot as 1.5 year olds.  The regulations that allowed them to mature are still in effect for most of zone 3.  DNR regulations fly in the face of accepted CWD science.

The DNR’s science based efforts to mitigate CWD are proving poor at best.  If our deer team was truly interested in mitigating CWD risk, border highway signs would be erected and yearling buck protection would be eliminated.  I have emailed Fish and Wildlife Director Jim Leach on both fronts.  His response included no answers.  DNR failure to act on these 2 issues alone suggests either poor policy attention or an agenda.

A social or political agenda?

Social pressures result in deer population goals set below what is acceptable to the hunting public.  Social or politically driven goals currently yield less than 1 adult deer per 40 acres.  That is fewer adult deer than hunters in many areas of the state.  You can’t satisfy 500,000 deer hunters at those levels.

Population control and deer damage mitigation are 2 major objectives of the DNR deer crew.  Too many deer are bad juju for farmers, foresters, and those who insure autos.  Are density decisions based upon science or social pressure?

Wildlife Research Manager Lou Cornicelli claims we need to shoot 1,200 more deer in the new CWD hot zone so he can realize a 99% confidence that disease prevalence is not greater than .5%.  That level of sampling is 280 times higher than the USDA tests for mad cow disease here in the US.  CWD is not transmissible to humans.  CWD does not affect deer numbers to any true measurable degree.

We have sampled enough deer to realize a 95% confidence in the infection rate.  1,200 more dead deer will bring us to 99%.  There is no real statistical difference.  Cornicelli’s claim that the January season has to do with the science of statistics is thin.  Its 100% about herd reduction, and if we find more positives, the CWD zone will continue to grow.  Think you can protect deer because you say no to the January season?  You have not witnessed the power of night hunting corn with snow on the ground.

If the hunters of zone 603 allow sharp shooters over corn, they will be setting a precedent.  For every positive we find we get another expansion of the CWD hot zone.  Maybe thats the right thing to do?  Maybe not.

DNR reaction to CWD is what affects hunters and the herd size.  I am not suggesting that the hot zone tactics are not the right thing to do, but history says it will not work.  Add in our DNR’s disregard for recognized CWD science and one can only conclude bad judgement or a social agenda.  Either way the hunters of zone 3 best not underestimate the consequences of their actions or lack of.