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How not to get pinched by warden during deer season

Don't bait. Validate your tag properly. Know your permit area.

two hunters wearing blaze orange talk with conservation officer
In the Northland, conservation officers say baiting and failing to validate your license are among the top violations during Minnesota firearms deer season. But some hunters apparently don't even know what deer permit area they are in, and some are shooting does in bucks-only permit areas.
Tyeler Schank / 2019 file / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — Hundreds of Minnesota deer hunters continue to break the law every season by illegally placing bait near their deer stands, failing to properly tag the deer they shoot and by shooting deer from roadways.

But in some areas, hunters don’t even know, or don’t care, what deer permit area they are hunting in.

“The (deer permit area) lines have been altered a bit in the past years, so that may have caused an issue. Or people just don’t care,” said Andy Schmidt, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conservation officer who patrols the woods and waters near Duluth. “We have seen does being shot in bucks-only or lottery zones without a doe permit quite regularly.”

Knowing whether you need a lottery doe permit, can shoot any deer or can only shoot bucks is one reason, along with new, area-specific chronic wasting disease restrictions, that the DNR is asking all hunters to make a plan and double check their specific hunting area to see what the rules are.

deer permit areas.jpg
Minnesota conservation officers are reminding hunters to know what deer permit area they are hunting in. If it's a bucks-only area, don't shoot a doe.
Gary Meader / Duluth News Tribune

Every year at the request of the News Tribune the DNR’s enforcement division compiles a list of the top 10 deer season violations. Every year, on a statewide basis, baiting is at or near the top. While it’s legal to hunt near a cornfield or apple tree in Minnesota, it is illegal to carry or truck in apples or corn or other deer food or attractants and hunt near them.

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“I would say it’s getting worse,” Shane Zavodnik, conservation officer in the Virginia area, said of the baiting issue. “It’s crazy the amount of bait blocks, corn and other prohibited products that leave the shelves at the local stores prior to and during the deer hunting season.”

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Officers get varied reactions from baiters when they issue the citations, but they often include excuses like “everyone else is doing it” or “I only have a few days to hunt and I want to see some deer.” In some cases, hunters have placed camouflage material above their bait piles so they can’t be detected by DNR officers in aircraft.

Other common violations involve not signing the hunting license; not having a license in possession; giving a license to someone else to tag a deer with; and not validating the deer tag part of the license that’s attached to the deer to note when it had been shot. And some people don’t bother to register their deer as required, which can be done over the phone or online.

“I would say the biggest problems in the area are related to license/tag violations to include failure to validate, failure to tag and registration,” Schmidt noted.

And then there are hunters who simply jump out of their truck or ATV and blast away.

“I would also add that shooting from the road or road right of way is a very common offense during the deer hunting season up this way,” Zavodnik noted.

illegal deer bait
Corn, apples and pumpkins are common foods used by Minnesota deer hunters who illegally bait deer, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officials say. The hunter who hunted near this bait was issued a citation by conservation officers. Baiting is often the most common violation during the Minnesota firearms deer season.
Contributed / Minnesota DNR

While more than 400,000 hunters are expected to be afield Saturday, Nov. 5, when Minnesota firearms deer hunting seasons starts, there are only about 175 conservation officers on the job statewide. The odds are in the lawbreakers' favor. But the officers want you to know they already know where some of your bait piles are. You might just get a visit Saturday.

Of course, there’s one surefire way to avoid getting pinched by a Minnesota conservation officer during the deer hunting season: Don’t do anything illegal.

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Here are the 10 most common violation citations issued by conservation officers during the 2021 Minnesota deer season, according to the DNR’s Enforcement Division:

  1. Hunting over a baited area.
  2. No valid license/registration/permit.
  3. Transporting uncased/loaded firearm in motor vehicle.
  4. Failure to validate deer license/tag.
  5. License/permit not in possession.
  6. Failure to register.
  7. Untagged deer.
  8. Lend/borrow license.
  9. No blaze orange.
  10. Feeding in a chronic wasting disease zone.
John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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