Every autumn in the public woods of Duluth, a couple dozen deer stands set up by bow hunters disappear.
“There’s a lot of people that are just thieves,” said Phillip Lockett, president of the Arrowhead Bowhunters Alliance, which administers the city hunt designed to cull the herd from Duluth’s streets. “It can be just frustrating.”
But this year, a few trail cameras have captured what appear to be the same man and woman, bandannas obscuring their faces, walking through the different city woods on different days. In one instance, the cameras caught them appearing to steal deer stand equipment.
The Duluth Police Department posted photographs to the department’s Facebook page last week, along with a call for help in identifying the suspects.
“Photos of the theft and individuals responsible were captured on the cameras,” the posting said.
The owner of the stolen equipment, Matt Haas, said his mobile deer stands were not taken, but the “climbing sticks” or ladders used to get up to them were removed.
Haas has had equipment stolen before and usually locks his stuff to the trees, he said, but the model of climbing stick he was using this year would have required several locks.
“This is the first time we were actually able to get a photo of somebody,” Haas said. “I think if they would have seen the camera, they would have taken the camera for sure.”
Haas said he’s guessing the thieves are “anti-hunters, just walking around the woods, looking for stands, looking to make people’s lives harder.”
He has other stands, though, and continues to hunt, he said.
Hunters are allowed to leave equipment overnight on public lands in the Duluth city hunt, he explained, but that doesn’t make it open season on taking the property.
“Unfortunately, people just don’t leave other people’s stuff alone,” Lockett said.
Duluth Police Lt. Mike Ceynowa said it’s difficult to assign motive in the case.
“You never know the intent,” he said. “We haven’t had any protests about our city hunt.”
The hunt this year includes 300 hunters, Lockett said, and runs through the end of December. Hunters are hoping for leads on the suspected thieves.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Duluth Police Department’s property crimes unit at 218-730-5160.