The 2006 statewide gun-deer hunting season is a critical one. The deer population is getting out of control, estimated at 1.6 million. "We've heard from hunters that they are going to go out there and reduce the heard," says the DNR's Greg Matthews. "I'm confident they will."

Matthews says they have to if there's ever a chance at combating Chronic Wasting disease. DNR is hoping more than 600,000 hunters will buy tags over the 9 days. "Quite frankly, I think it's (interest in deer hunting) leveled off," says Matthews. "One of the challenges we face in the future is increased urbanization and dissasociation with the land. I think it's going to be more difficult to recruit hunters in the future.

Next year, DNR will start asking the public, hunter and non-hunter alike, what they feel should be done to attack CWD. Everything that's been tried so far hasn't worked. "Despite liberal seasons, free permits, monetary incentives, free deer testing, we still haven't got enough hunters," says Matthews. He adds that more testing will be done in parts of the state outside the CWD zones this year and next and hopefully they will find the disease is confined to only the southwest.

AUDIO: (Jim Dick reports :74 MP3)

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