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Minnesota DNR report: Drivers blindly follow GPS to unplowed forest roads, ATV trails

Department of Natural Resources report for the week of Dec. 14, 2020.

District 5 — Eveleth area

Conservation Officer Don Bozovsky (Hibbing) worked anglers and muzzleloader deer hunters, and followed up on a firearms deer season case.

Drug evidence was sent to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension lab from a second-degree possession and sales of a controlled substance case, which originated from a spruce top theft case.

Enforcement action was taken for failure to register deer.

CO Shane Zavodnik (Cook) investigated a number of trespass complaints over the past week. Panfish and walleye fishing remains steady, and quality ice is being formed due to lack snow cover. Zavodnik continues to complete paperwork from this year’s deer-hunting season. He wants to remind snowmobilers to take a look at their registration on their sleds and make sure it’s not expired. The season is quickly approaching.

CO Matt Frericks (Virginia) spent time following up on several trespass violations. He spoke to a landowner who has started to feed deer in such large numbers that several car vs. deer accidents have occurred near the landowner’s residence. The landowner was advised that with the mild winter at this point, the deer population is not hurting.


Frericks checked numerous ice anglers. They have been catching some crappies and panfish. A few people were checked preparing for the upcoming trapping season.

CO Duke Broughten (Aurora) spent the past week monitoring fishing, hunting, and trapping activity. Few muzzleloader deer hunters were observed taking to the field. Ice anglers reported limited success. Ice conditions continue to vary significantly from lake to lake. Anglers reported average ice thickness of 4-6 inches, but some deeper lakes still have open water.

CO Darrin Kittelson (International Falls 1) reports the 2020 muzzleloader season came to a quiet close with very few people observed the last weekend. The ice conditions on Rainy Lake are improving in the bays, but people are reminded there is no such thing as safe ice. The spearing activity on the area lakes has increased with most people at least seeing fish. Success was down from the previous week. Enforcement action for week included license violations.

CO John Slatinski IV (Ray) reports muzzleloader deer hunters were scarce, but northern pike spear fishing activity was very active. Success was reported as being pretty fair during the week but as the weather front closed in the fish seemed less active.

Slatinski was flagged down by an individual on a bridge after he observed three deer trying to cross the bridge. The animals panicked when they met his truck. Two continued on but one jumped over the side and did not survive the drop. The deer was collected and utilized.

CO Troy Fondie (Orr) reports continued monitoring of angling activity on area lakes. He also checked local forest roads, tended to equipment work and attended training.

District 6 — Two Harbors area

CO Anthony Bermel (Babbitt) worked on Upper Red Lake with area officers and CO Lawler. High levels of activity were observed, and many violations were encountered such as extra lines; unattended lines; overlimits of walleyes; too many walleyes over 17 inches; possession of dressed fillets; unregistered recreational vehicles; no shelter tags; and drug paraphernalia.

Additional time was spent checking anglers, grouse hunters, muzzleloader deer hunters and ATV activity in the station, with enforcement action taken for insufficient blaze orange, land-use trespass and youth ATV violations.


CO Thomas Wahlstrom (Grand Marais) attended in-service training and instructed firearm qualifications at Camp Ripley. He monitored ice fishing and followed up on complaints of early trout fishing and trapping violations.

CO Sean Williams (Ely 1) reports ice angler success was generally low. He checked a good number of anglers on several lakes across the Ely area. ATVs have become abundant and are operating on the lakes that froze early. However, a fish house fell through the ice on one of the same lakes. People are reminded to continue to be vigilant of ice conditions. Violations included operating an unregistered ATV, failure to transfer ATV registration, and no identification on a fish house.

CO John Velsvaag (Ely 2) checked muzzleloader hunters and anglers this past week. Ice conditions continue to improve but some lakes have areas that are still open or have very little ice. Multiple people called about the northern pike regulations and whitefish netting.

CO Don Murray (Two Harbors) worked ice angling and trapping activity this past week. Ice conditions continue to improve on most area lakes, but anglers must still use caution on early ice and check ice depth frequently. Grouse hunters continue to find birds with the lack of deep snow cover.

CO Mary Manning (Hovland) worked with CO Wahlstrom on a case involving a deer caught in a trap and another trapping situation that turned out to be legal.

She also took reports of drivers led astray by Google. At least three drivers, including one in a semitrailer, followed their phone’s advice down unplowed forest roads and ATV trails that are part of the county snowmobile system. The semitrailer driver shared a nice evening and dinner with the good Samaritan who rescued him while he waited five hours for a tow.

Manning also followed up on an ATV issue and a trapping case from earlier this fall.

CO David Schottenbauer (Silver Bay) worked an area Turn in Poachers complaint and spent time checking angling activity.


District 7 — Grand Rapids area

CO Jayson Hansen (Bigfork) worked the muzzleloader deer season. He also checked anglers and small-game hunters, patrolled campgrounds and monitored ATV riders. Numerous game and fish questions were answered. He also responded to wildlife-related complaints.

CO Mike Fairbanks (Deer River) checked anglers and monitored trapping activity. Angler success was good this past week. Fairbanks and his K9 partner, Si, also assisted in locating spent casings and searched for evidence thrown into the woods by a fleeing suspect.

Enforcement action was taken for license issues, allowing illegal youth operation of an ATV and transporting an uncased firearm.

CO Sarah Grell (Grand Rapids) checked ice anglers this past week and weekend. She took a couple of complaints about nuisance and possibly sick animals, too. She took enforcement action for angling violations.

CO Thomas Sutherland (Grand Rapids) worked ice angling activity with some very good early ice walleye action in the area. The ice conditions are still variable, but with colder weather in the future thickness should only get better. Enforcement action was taken for angling without a license in possession and for trespassing.

CO Jimmy Van Asch (Pengilly) reports working angling, dark house spearing, big-game, and ATV-related activities throughout the surrounding areas. Enforcement action was taken for no angling license in possession and spearing without a license.

CO Taylor Hochstein (Hill City) monitored big-game and small-game hunting activity. Follow-up work was done on open cases and several game and fish-related phone calls were fielded.

CO Vincent Brown (Northome) spent the past week familiarizing himself with his new station after completing the Conservation Officer Academy and field training. Brown spent the week getting to know the geography of his station and checking ice anglers.


District 8 — Duluth area

CO Jacob Willis (Brookston) spent multiple days at Camp Ripley this past week instructing at division training. Willis also provided assistance to a Wisconsin conservation warden regarding a deer case and follow-up was also done regarding other ongoing cases.

CO Andy Schmidt (Duluth West) worked muzzleloader and archery deer-hunting activity most of the past week. Ice conditions have improved greatly and anglers/ice skaters are taking advantage. Complaints related to injured/nuisance animals were handled.

CO Kipp Duncan (Duluth East) completed the field training process for Conservation Officer Candidate Charles Scott. Duncan also checked hunting locations for late-season archery and muzzleloader hunters. Baiting locations were found and enforcement was taken for hunters hunting over bait. Other activities included checking beaver traps and ice anglers.

CO Jeff Humphrey (Cromwell) patrolled Jay Cooke State Park while the special muzzleloader deer hunt was going on.

Humphrey checked ice anglers on several area lakes. They were targeting panfish and pike. Ice conditions are continuing to improve daily with the low overnight temperatures.

CO Scott Staples (Carlton) spent time conducting K9 training and following up on hunting violations from the deer season. A complaint of a butchered deer carcass was investigated. The suspect was easily found after his deer tag was still attached to the ear of the deer. Enforcement action was taken for littering and failing to register the deer.

Ice fishing activity is picking up in the area. Anglers should be cautious on area lakes as some have only a few inches of ice. Enforcement action was taken for license violations.

Extra patrols were conducted in Jay Cooke State Park after complaints about several individuals who have been hiking with their dogs off leashes.


Lake Superior Marine Unit

CO Keith Olson (Lake Superior Marine Unit) checked ice anglers as well as those venturing in boats onto Lake Superior. Area lakes have little to no snow cover and provided excellent ice-skating conditions during the past week. Island and Pike lakes had large numbers of ice skaters and ice boaters taking advantage of the near-perfect conditions.

Olson worked a special detail in the Ely area. Violations detected included extra lines, deer baiting and license-related issues. Trapping enforcement related issues was also worked.

CO Matt Miller (Lake Superior Marine Unit) checked shore anglers and trollers on Lake Superior. Inland ice anglers are finally gaining access on foot and ATVs. Snowmobile trails remain impassable until more snow falls. Enforcement actions were taken for angling violations.

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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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