A question I hear and I frequently see explored in newspaper articles is, “How do I get my deer tested?”

We recognize that you want to know that the venison in the family freezer is wholesome and free of chronic wasting disease (CWD). For many hunters, they figure the only option is to try to get a test done on their deer.

But the experts tell me that isn’t true, and we are taking steps that we hope will give you a great deal of confidence your deer is CWD-free, even if it isn’t directly tested.

OK, so why do the experts say getting a test done on your deer may not be a definitive indicator of whether or not it has CWD? Well, the answer is CWD tests were never meant to be food safety tests, and false negatives are possible. The disease has to be very far along before it finally shows up in brain tissue.

A better alternative is scientifically sampling a geographic location and finding out if CWD is detectable in ANY of the deer in that area. And that’s what we are going to do. DNR has a plan to sample up to 500 deer in each county of the state (500 in each deer management unit surrounding the eradication zone). By sampling that many deer, the odds are overwhelming that we would find CWD in one or more of the samples if it exists at all in that area.

The results of this county-by-county CWD surveillance should be far more important to Wisconsin deer hunters than tests on individual deer. It will answer the question once and for all, “Where is CWD in our state?” When results are in (we think that will take three to six months), you will know there are no positives in the county where you hunt and, therefore, that it is highly unlikely your deer was ever even exposed to CWD. I truly believe this is the best assurance government can provide about the health of our Wisconsin deer herd.

This will be the largest CWD sampling effort in U.S. history. Sample collection sites will be set up statewide and staffed by DNR volunteers from many programs, by staff experts from other state agencies, and by volunteers from conservation organizations.

If you volunteer your deer as a sample, you will be asked to plot on a map where you shot your deer and to donate the head. You can keep the antlers if you want them.

The follow-up question I hear concerning this is, “How come Colorado can offer all hunters a $17 test on their deer and Wisconsin can’t?”