MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Saturday marked the first day of deer hunting season.

And this weekend, hunters are also helping to put a stop to a deadly disease impacting the animals.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is requiring hunters to bring their harvest to one of several locations across the state to be tested for chronic wasting disease — a brain disorder affecting some deer in the state.

The hope is this testing can keep the deer population from dwindling.

For hunters visiting the Wright County Public Works building for testing, it’s already been a great start to the deer opener.

“Deer everywhere,” said hunter Larry Brastad. “I’ve never seen so many deer.”

The DNR has been trying to increase the deer population in Minnesota after a couple of tough winters a few years back.

Leslie McInenly with the DNR says CWD has been detected in southern Minnesota’s wild deer population.

DNR workers test deer for CWD (credit: CBS)

“We’re on the upswing, that’s for sure,” McInenly said.

And some deer farms in northern and central Minnesota are now affected by the brain disease.

“They’ll be emaciated, and it’s fatal,” McInenly said. “It’s always fatal.”

The hope is to stop CWD from spreading to the wild deer populations of central and northern areas of the state through this weekend’s mandatory testing.

“If you’ve ever been sick and you felt your throat to see if you’ve got some swollen lymph nodes, that’s what we’re taking out of the deer,” McInenly said.

The testing takes about two weeks. McInenly says there is no research proving CWD can spread to humans, but anyone who is concerned can freeze their venison and wait for results.

“No news is good news,” she said.

She says anyone impacted by CWD will be notified, and southern Minnesota hunters can look for results online.

“I think it’s a very good idea,” Brastad said.

CWD was first discovered in Colorado some 50 years ago. The first case did not reach Minnesota until 2010.

Click here for more information on the testing.