NORTH DAKOTA (KXNET) — Gun hunting season in North Dakota is just a few months away, and as you plan for your hunting trips, it’s important to brush up on the rules and what to look out for.

When you finally make the trophy kill, the first thought on your mind will undoubtedly be dinner — from the wait to field dressing, and back down the mountain, then eventually to the kitchen table.

Before sitting down to enjoy your prize, however, it’s important to check for concerns like chronic wasting disease.

“If the deer looks or acts healthy before you harvest it,” explained Wildlife Veterinarian Charlie Bahnson, “it’s pretty unlikely that it has it.”

One should be especially vigilant during field dressing, and Bahnson says it’s the perfect time to look out for things that look or smell atypical.

“Take common sense precautions,” he stated. “Wear gloves while you field dress, clean the knives and equipment that you use to process your animal, and then cook your animal thoroughly.”

CWD, in particular, is especially important to watch out for. According to Game and Fish, the disease is deadly to moose, deer, and elk, and can cause long-term population declines if left unchecked.

It is also a transmissible disease that can be spread directly from animal to animal, or indirectly through CWD-contaminated environments. Currently, the disease is mainly located near Grant, Sioux, and Divide counties.

While CWD does not impact people or domestic dogs, it is noted that domestic cats can be infected — meaning it’s especially important for pet lovers to take a close look at their catches.

“There’s no way to know if that animal had CWD by looking at it,” Bahnson stated. “It’s recommended by public health folks that if you’re hunting in an area that CWD is known to exist, you get your animal tested throughout the department.”

Ultimately, Bahnson states, when it comes to taking the animal home, the decision about whether that’s suitable meat is really up to the hunter to decide.

“Occasionally,” he noted, “we do have folks that call that are concerned about their animal, and maybe we do a little testing to find out that it is sick. In that case, we don’t issue a replacement tag, so the animal that you choose to harvest is ultimately your deer.

If you are out and see an abnormal or ill deer, contact your nearest Game and Fish Warden.