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Minnesota DNR report: Officers see mixed bag for grouse opener

Department of Natural Resources report for the week of Sept. 21, 2020.

District 5 — Eveleth area

Conservation Officer Darrin Kittelson (International Falls 1) reports a busy opening weekend of the small-game hunting and deer archery seasons. People were also out attempting to catch sturgeon on the Rainy River. Additional activities included ATV enforcement; assisting local law enforcement with an abduction/kidnapping/pursuit; attending firearms training; and assisting with presidential security in Bemidji.

Enforcement action for past week included illegal-length walleyes, angling with extra lines, and license violations.

CO John Slatinski IV (Ray) attended annual training in Hibbing. Slatinski also responded to an ongoing bear complaint and coordinated with a local hunter in an attempt to provide some relief for the affected residents and businesses. He traveled to Bemidji to assist with a presidential campaign visit to the area.

Slatinski reports the small-game opener had more than the usual number of hunters observed and opening day success seemed to be up from previous years. An increase in dispersed camping activity was also noted.

CO Troy Fondie (Orr) reports boating and angling activity continue to be monitored. Big-game and small-game activity were checked. Public access sites continue to be monitored and equipment work was completed. Spare time was spent returning phone calls, issuing permits and completing various administrative tasks.


CO Shane Zavodnik (Cook) reports a busy week of monitoring bear, deer and small-game hunting. Birds were scarce during the busy opening weekend, as most hunters were found to be without a grouse. Despite the low harvest rate, many people were happy to be out enjoying the nice weather.

Zavodnik also patrolled area lakes, and most anglers reported an uptick in the crappie and walleye bite as of late. He also assisted local law enforcement with the ATVAM event as well as an assault involving a victim being pepper sprayed by the suspect, who was under the influence.

CO Don Bozovsky (Hibbing) worked the small-game and archery deer openers, ongoing hunting seasons, anglers and boaters. He also attended training. Bozovsky issued a resource protection notification for fill placed in a bog and worked details in Lake County and Bemidji.

Fewer-than-anticipated grouse hunters hit the woods for the opener, but those who showed up managed to bag some birds. Enforcement action was taken for unlawful transport of small game, littering and a number of ATV violations.

CO Duke Broughten (Aurora) spent the past week monitoring fishing, hunting and ATV activity. Fishing success remained limited. Grouse-hunter numbers appeared higher than expected, although hunters also reported limited success. Many hunters reported flushing grouse, but due to the amount of foliage still on the trees, it was difficult to see birds.

Few archery hunters were observed taking to the woods for opening of archery deer season. ATV activity remained high. Broughten fielded calls regarding nuisance bears, timber theft and trespass. He also assisted with the ATVAM event in Embarrass.

District 6 — Two Harbors area

CO Sean Williams (Ely 1) focused on ATV and small-game hunting activity over the weekend as Ely hosted the ATVAM annual conference and small-game opener over the same dates. He also fielded several complaints from visitors to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness who witnessed hunting activities. No violations were reported and the visitors were informed that as part of Minnesota, hunting is legal inside the wilderness.

CO John Velsvaag (Ely 2) checked anglers and grouse hunters this past week. Bear hunters have thinned out and anglers were catching a few walleyes. Lots of grouse hunters were out, as were ATV riders.


CO Thomas Wahlstrom (Grand Marais) checked small-game hunters during the busy opening weekend. Every road was crowded with ATVs and vehicles. The hunters who got out of their vehicles, found a quiet trail and walked, found good hunting success. He attended training at Camp Ripley, instructed firearms qualifications in Hibbing and responded to nuisance-bear and ATV-related complaints. Enforcement action was taken for hunting and ATV violations.

CO Mary Manning (Hovland) saw a busy start to the grouse opener. Fall colors also brought out folks and forest roads were packed with ATVs, bicycles and autos.

Hunters are reminded that it is their responsibility to know where homes and occupied dwellings are before shooting at a grouse on the road. There are several apps with great aerial images for that! Numerous “no trespassing” signs should also be a good clue that there is a home within 500 feet. Hunters also need to remember that some forest roads go through private property and those stretches, if posted by the landowner, are not open to hunting without permission.

One hunter shot repeatedly at a bird on a roadway so close to several homes that three different homeowners rushed out to the road to confront them, but the hunter had fled the posted area. Enforcement action was taken for no blaze orange, no helmets on juvenile ATV operators and passengers, and allowing illegal juvenile ATV operation.

CO Anthony Bermel (Babbitt) started Step 2 of field training with COC Ryan Brown. A busy grouse opener was worked, as was the ATVAM weekend in the area with high ATV usage and participation noted. A variety of enforcement contacts were made with violations including no trout stamp, possession of marijuana and no small-game license. The two encountered ATV and off-highway motorcycle violations, driving after revocation, and failure to carry consent for decorative tree material.

CO David Schottenbauer (Silver Bay) began field training this past week with COC Vincent Brown. They spent the week conducting ATV enforcement and checking the area for small-game hunting activity. Enforcement action was taken for numerous ATV violations, including allowing a youth to operate an ATV without a helmet and for operating an ATV with no registration. They report a fairly slow start to grouse hunting in the Silver Bay area.

CO Kylan Hill (Tofte) reports working a very hot pink salmon bite in the tributaries. A few anglers were spoken to about the legalities behind hook choice and one angler was found to be angling with no license in possession.

ATVs were out in force as a detail was worked in the Finland area. Violations encountered included juvenile helmet violations. He found off-highway motorcycle violations, headlight violations and various registration violations. One operator in particular was cited after Hill determined the machine he was operating did not have registration. Instead of updating their registration, he instead decided to put his friend’s extra dealer registration plate on his machine.


Some riders were in the area looking at the changing of the seasons as the leaves were vibrant. Nuisance-bear complaints are still coming in almost daily.

CO Don Murray (Two Harbors) worked a busy small-game and archery deer opener. Fishing activity has picked up with some nice fish being caught. Fall colors are nearing peak conditions along some of the North Shore and wild rice is still being harvested in the area. Enforcement action was taken for illegally dumping garbage and licensing violations.

District 7 — Grand Rapids area

CO Jayson Hansen (Bigfork) checked anglers, hunters and boaters. He also patrolled campgrounds, ATV riders and for aquatic invasive species activity. He answered numerous game and fish-related questions. He also responded to wildlife-related complaints.

CO Mike Fairbanks (Deer River) checked anglers, worked the small-game and archery openers; monitored off-highway vehicle activity; instructed at fall qualifications; worked the presidential visit detail; and handled injured-animal complaints.

Fairbanks and his K9 partner, SI, also assisted the local police department and county searching for possible stolen firearms.

Many grouse were flushed, but success was slow with all the cover. Angler success was great this past week. Enforcement action was taken for license issues, possessing an overlimit of walleyes, no throwable, no blaze orange and illegal operation of an ATV.

CO Sarah Grell (Grand Rapids) worked grouse-hunting and archery deer-hunting activity. Not many birds were bagged, but the leaves are still plentiful and that can make harvesting grouse more difficult. She also checked ATV activity and found some minor violations.

CO Thomas Sutherland (Grand Rapids) and COC Charles Scott worked area lakes checking boaters and anglers. They also handled a nuisance complaint of a bear enjoying bird feeders and spent time checking small-game hunters.


CO Jimmy Van Asch (Pengilly) focused enforcement efforts on big-game, small-game, angling, migratory waterfowl and ATV enforcement. Archery deer and small-game hunters were out in high numbers for the season openers. Grouse hunters had minimal success likely due to dense foliage cover still present. Enforcement action was taken for several small-game, ATV and license violations.

District 8 — Duluth area

CO Jacob Willis (Brookston) saw moderate activity for the small-game opener and few violations. The warm weather seemed to push people to get one last weekend on the water instead of heading out into the woods. Willis also assisted with a security detail in the Duluth area.

CO Andy Schmidt (Duluth West) and COC Curtis Simonson started the week off working the bowhunting opener and small-game opener. Enforcement action was taken for deer hunting over bait. The number of small-game hunters progressed throughout the weekend and hunters were seeing a lot of grouse, but having little success harvesting any birds. ATV enforcement was monitored as well in the area and enforcement action was taken for ATV equipment and registration issues.

CO Kipp Duncan (Duluth East) completed Step 1 of field training with a new conservation officer candidate. One day was spent completing annual use-of-force and firearm training. Duncan assisted local law enforcement with a security detail and worked small-game and archery deer hunting over the weekend.

CO Scott Staples (Carlton) attended fall in-service training in Hibbing. The small-game and archery deer openers were slow in the area. Very few grouse hunters were found in the area and no grouse were to be seen. Off-highway vehicle activity in the area was heavy, and enforcement action was taken for equipment, operating and registration-related violations.

A call was received of a dead deer found on someone’s property that did not appear to have any injuries. It was determined the deer was likely hit and killed by a car.

Lake Superior Marine Unit

CO Keith Olson (Lake Superior Marine Unit) attended a joint U.S. Coast Guard meeting with multiple agencies and stakeholders for the western half of Lake Superior. He also attended Division training in Hibbing. Olson worked the small-game opener during a beautiful weekend in the Duluth and Two Harbors areas. Hunters reported having some success on grouse north of Duluth. Anglers on Lake Superior were found to be having success with lake trout.

CO Matt Miller (Lake Superior Marine Unit) checked salmon anglers along the upper shore. Complaints of snagging and netting were received and checked. Nuisance bears doing damage are still being reported on an almost daily basis. ATV violations were found in the usual places. Enforcement action was taken for angling 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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