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Minnesota DNR report: Deer harvest low; first snowmobilers of season out

Department of Natural Resources report for the week of Nov. 16, 2020.

District 5 — Eveleth area

Conservation Officer Shane Zavodnik (Cook) spent time conducting deer-hunting regulatory checks throughout the past week. Hunter success noticeably increased during the weekend, with some people observed harvesting a few nice bucks.

Zavodnik assisted CO Frericks with a complaint involving shots heard well after legal shooting hours. During the course of the investigation, several individuals in the hunting camp were found to have been hunting over bait. One of the party members was also successful in harvesting a decent buck, but it was later determined the deer was also taken over bait. Enforcement action was taken in regard to numerous big-game violations during the event.

CO Don Bozovsky (Hibbing) continued working the deer firearms season, small-game hunters, whitefish netting, and road-hunting and trespass complaints. Bozovsky and COs Frericks and Zavodnik worked a road-hunting complaint detail and encountered deer hunters shooting from the road, transporting a loaded firearm and wearing no blaze orange. Hunter numbers tailed off considerably. Hunters were seeing ample does, but bucks were being elusive.

Enforcement action was taken for shooting from the roadway; transporting loaded firearms; no blaze orange; failure to validate a deer site tag; no license in possession; traffic violations, alcohol in a state park; and no state park permit.

CO Matt Frericks (Virginia) spent time writing reports for several baiting citations issued over the past week. Once those were completed, COs Frericks and Zavodnik followed up on a report of shooting after legal shooting hours that led to three more citations being issued for hunting deer over bait. After Frericks cleared from that deer camp, he found yet another person hunting over at least 2 gallons of shelled corn. All told, four citations were issued that day for hunting over bait in about four hours.


Several trespass cases continue to be investigated. Enforcement action was taken for failure to validate a site tag, unregistered big-game animal and hunting over bait.

CO Duke Broughten (Aurora) spent the past week monitoring deer-hunting, trapping and ATV-related activity. Deer hunters continue to report limited success.

Broughten investigated cases related to trespass, shooting deer from the roadway, allowing a juvenile to violate game and fish laws, taking a deer without a license, and hunting while privileges are revoked.

CO Darrin Kittelson (International Falls) and COC Curtis Simonson started the week off checking local deer camps in the area. Hunters reported having some success. Overall, hunters reported the deer movement being slow.

Enforcement action was taken this past week for transporting loaded firearms in a motor vehicle and shooting big game (deer) from a motor vehicle. Trespass complaints were addressed and handled as well.

CO John Slatinski IV (Ray) continued to check on deer-baiting complaints. Deer-hunter numbers have dropped drastically from the opening weekend. Those still hunting are reporting not seeing many deer, and the colder weather makes it more difficult to spend extended time in the field.

He took a report of an individual believed to be hunting within the city limits. It is the responsibility of the hunter to know what type of land they are hunting. Several questions were received on the deer zone split, which is new for this year.

CO Troy Fondie (Orr) reports another week of poor deer hunting with very few hunters in the field and even fewer deer observed harvested. Comments continue about the lack of deer and high wolf numbers. Area forest roads were checked and public access sites were monitored. Equipment work was completed.


District 6 — Two Harbors area

CO Sean Williams (Ely 1) reports hunting success over the past week seemed to have slowed in the Ely area. A few deer were checked but most hunters reported less activity than opening weekend. Violations including taking deer from a roadway, failure to validate a deer tag, and hunting without a license in possession.

CO John Velsvaag (Ely 2) checked deer hunters and trappers this past week. Deer hunting was slow and traps were getting iced up. Velsvaag received several calls on topics ranging from brook trout to tagging furs.

CO Thomas Wahlstrom (Grand Marais) checked small- and big-game hunters. Success rates seemed low, but folk are still enjoying time in the woods.

CO Mary Manning (Hovland) checked deer hunters and small-game hunters. Fresh snow seemed to do little to help with deer movement as hunters reported another slow week.

CO Anthony Bermel (Babbitt) reports working a busy week of deer-hunting enforcement. Two mature bucks were seized one morning on separate shooting from the road right of way cases within a mile of each other. Several folks were contacted hunting while revoked.

In another case, an individual was contacted pulling a buck out of the woods. When checking his license, it was discovered that he purchased his license an hour and a half before the check, and the individual admitted to shooting the deer in his yard and then going and purchasing a license.

Additional enforcement action included cutting spruce tops without consent and transporting a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle.

CO David Schottenbauer (Silver Bay) worked area deer-hunting activity this past week. Time was also spent checking grouse hunters in the area.


CO Kylan Hill (Tofte) reports a large uptick in deer movement after a recent cold front hit the Arrowhead this past week. Some dandy bucks were seen at deer camp and every tag was correctly validated and attached to the animal.

On his way to the regional office in Grand Rapids, Hill encountered illegal balsam bough harvesting on U.S. Forest Service land. He also cited a party for transporting a loaded rifle in a motor vehicle after Hill contacted three hunters near the wood line of a county road after the group attempted to take a deer that had crossed the road.

Enforcement action was taken on two ATV riders for registration violations. Hill issued a brand-new adult trapper a warning for violating lynx management zone trap laws. Hill spent time explaining the laws to the trapper, who was also thanked for bringing along a young teenager and showing them around the great outdoors.

CO Don Murray (Two Harbors) worked a fairly quiet second weekend of the firearms deer season. Recent snowfall made for easy tracking but hunter activity was low compared to previous seasons.

Enforcement investigations included deer baiting, lending licenses and no blaze orange. Decorative bough buyer and harvesting activities were also inspected.

District 7 — Grand Rapids area

CO Jayson Hansen (Bigfork) and COC Stephen Westby began Phase 4 of field training in Bigfork. They checked several deer hunters over the second weekend with only a few deer harvested. Enforcement actions taken include transporting a loaded firearm; untagged deer; failure to validate a deer tag; small amount of marijuana; and attempt to take deer over the limit.

CO Mike Fairbanks (Deer River) checked hunters, responded to Turn in Poachers calls and handled injured-animal complaints this past week.

Fairbanks and his K9 partner, Si, also located spent shell casings from a shooting from the road case and assisted the county in locating a handgun that was hidden by a suspect. Enforcement action was taken for license issues, hunting over bait and shooting from the road.


CO Sarah Grell (Grand Rapids) checked deer-hunting activity this past week. She took calls of trespass and inspected carcass-dumping complaints. She also worked a baiting complaint. Enforcement action was taken for deer-hunting violations.

CO Thomas Sutherland (Grand Rapids) worked a busy week of deer hunting with many people in the woods during both warm and cold, wintery weather.

Sutherland took enforcement action for taking an antlerless deer without a lottery tag; having a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle; failing to tag a big-game animal; failing to validate a big-game site tag; and two counts of illegally transporting a big-game animal in a motor vehicle and for possessing a small amount of marijuana. Multiple car-killed deer possession tags were also issued.

CO Jimmy Van Asch (Pengilly) continued to focus enforcement efforts on big-game hunters during the firearms deer season. The weather for the second weekend changed significantly for hunters due to temperatures dropping during the week. Assistance was also given to the Itasca County Sheriff’s Office with an ATV crash.

Follow-up work continues on pending investigations.

CO Taylor Hochstein (Hill City) continued to monitor the firearms deer season. Harvest numbers remain low among area hunters, who are now facing much cooler weather than they were at the beginning of the season. Follow-up work on prior cases was completed and two individuals with outstanding warrants were arrested.

District 8 — Duluth area

CO Jacob Willis (Brookston) followed up on ongoing big-game cases. Willis also assisted a Fond du Lac biologist in locating a collared wolf in the Floodwood area. Night-hunting activity was worked, but the weather seemed to keep people mostly indoors.

CO Andy Schmidt (Duluth West) spent the past week working deer-hunting activity. Baiting, trespassing and shooting from the roadway complaints were handled. Fewer-than-normal hunters out and about has been the story this year and very few deer have been seen harvested.


Schmidt assisted St. Louis County with a deer shack break-in/squatter and also with an escaped prisoner from the Northeast Regional Correctional Center.

CO Kipp Duncan (Duluth East) and COC Charles Scott worked area deer hunters. Trespass complaints were attended to and multiple hunting questions were answered by phone and email. Also during the week, hunting over bait complaints were investigated.

CO Jeff Humphrey (Cromwell) followed up on deer-season calls during the past week. Several of them involved baiting complaints. Humphrey also assisted neighboring officers with ongoing cases. Hunters were reporting mixed results. Most agreed deer movement improved with the colder weather and snow.

Violations included hunting deer over bait; overlimit of deer; lending/borrowing licenses; unlawful transport of big game; and obstructing the legal process. He also encountered failure to register deer and unlawful party hunting.

CO Scott Staples (Carlton) and K9 Schody assisted with several calls over the past week that included assisting in searching for a shot wolf; rifle casings that were used in a trespass and overlimit case; and tracking a fugitive from a correctional facility in Duluth.

Deer-hunting activity in the area reported mixed success. Some hunters are doing well and others are having a tough time finding deer.

Other enforcement action was taken for operating ATVs during restricted times, having illegal stands on an aquatic management area and failing to validate a deer tag.

Lake Superior Marine Unit

CO Keith Olson (Lake Superior Marine Unit) worked in the Two Harbors and Finland areas during the past week. The snowfall and colder weather helped deer hunters improve their success rate.


Olson worked a decorative forest materials harvesting case with CO Murray in the Two Harbors station and checked shore anglers near the French River.

Enforcement action was taken for license violations, trespass and landowner disputes.

CO Matt Miller (Lake Superior Marine Unit) handled deer-hunting complaints and checked hunters in the Duluth and Two Harbors areas. ATV-operation violations were found, and the season’s first snowmobile riders started to appear.

Baiting, tagging and transport violations were found related to deer hunting. Enforcement action was taken for big-game and ATV violations.

Katie Rohman has served as the managing editor of the Duluth News Tribune since 2019. She started with Duluth Media Group in 2017 as regional editor of the Superior Telegram, Pine Journal, Lake County News-Chronicle, Eastern Observer and Western Weekly. She has worked in newspapers around the Midwest since 2004.
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