SPRINGFIELD, Mo.- Across the Ozarks, hunters are gearing up for the first weekend of deer hunting season.

During this hunting season, the Missouri Department of Conservation is holding mandatory sample collection in 34 counties across the state to help stop the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease.

Francis Skalicky with the Missouri Department of Conservation says this is the best time to start collecting samples for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) for deer in the area.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CWD can cause deer to stumble, lose a lot of weight, and have other brain symptoms.

“By doing this sample collection this is one way that we are able to hopefully limit the spread of it. We’re able to kind of keep up with where it’s at and by keeping up with where it’s at, we can limit the spread of it,” said Skalicky. “Our staff will collect lymph nodes from the neck and they will send those off to a lab to be tested. ”

With the hunting season in full swing, Skalicky says it’s important to raise awareness of the dangers of CWD. Skalicky also says deer hunting season ultimately helps keep the animal healthy.

“Deer hunting in Missouri is a big deal. Deer viewing in Missouri is a big deal,” said Skalicky.

“We owe a huge, huge thank you to the hunters of Missouri. You literally have thousands of hunters out in the woods. So, we can get thousands of samples.” said Skalicky.

The season will last just over a week, ending on November 22.