Hunters in trouble: Ten ways Minn. hunters run afoul of the law

  • Article by: DOUG SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 30, 2013 - 8:12 AM
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Failure to properly tag game is No. 9 on the DNR's list of Top 10 hunting-related violations.

It’s a Top 10 list that’s not funny.

In fact, the 10 most frequent Minnesota hunting violations produce frustration among law enforcement officials and law-abiding hunters because, despite hunter education, fines and even loss of hunting privileges or hunting gear, the violations continue.

“Most people support and comply with the laws,’’ said Ken Soring, Department of Natural Resources enforcement chief. “You can have some of the best days of your life out hunting and fishing with friends and family.

“We ask people to do it right. Those who choose not to, we’re there to hold them accountable.’’

The penalties range from $50 to $300, plus court costs, for misdemeanors, and up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $3,000 for gross misdemeanors.

Here’s the list, and the number of citations or warnings issued in 2012:

No. 1: Trespass » 337 violations

An archery hunter near St. Cloud who recently trespassed on posted private property to recover a buck he wounded now faces possible gross misdemeanor charges, which could lead to a fine and revocation of his hunting privileges for three years in Minnesota and 37 other states.

“The hunter had been told to stay off the property in the past and admitted to seeing the No Trespassing signs as well,’’ conservation officer Mike Martin said. Because the hunter transported the illegally taken big game, he could have had his vehicle and bow seized, Martin said.

Trespassing is a frequent complaint for most conservation officers. But the 337 violations tallied last year are the tip of the iceberg.

“Those are just the citations and warnings,’’ Soring said. Officers get lots of phone calls from people asking how to keep trespassers off their land, and from hunters asking how to get access to private land.

These days, with remote trail cameras, cellphones and more people in the woods, it’s riskier than ever to trespass, Soring said. The DNR has used trail camera photos to prosecute trespassers.

No. 2: License, registration or permits not in possession » 245

“When you’re in the field hunting, you need to carry your license with you,’’ Soring said. Conservation officers might give you a break if you left it in your nearby vehicle. “We write a lot of warnings,’’ Soring said.

No. 3: No valid license, registration or permit » 239

In these cases, hunters usually haven’t even bought a license or permit, a flagrant violation resulting in a citation and fine. With licenses now available online and even by phone, conservation officers rarely have sympathy for a hunter without a valid license.

No. 4: Hunting over bait » 225

Despite a law requiring Minnesota hunters convicted of baiting deer to lose their hunting privileges for a year, and possibly their gun or archery equipment, too, baiting violations continue. Last year, officers issued about 166 violations and seized 135 firearms or bows. “I don’t understand how you would relax and enjoy the hunt,” Soring said, knowing you’re hunting over bait and might get caught.

No. 5: Transporting loaded or uncased firearms in a motor vehicle » 222

Because the Legislature greatly relaxed restrictions on transporting uncased firearms, most of these violations are for carrying loaded guns in a vehicle. “The majority of time it’s people trying to cut corners,’’ Soring said. “Some are honest mistakes that could become deadly mistakes.’’ Some violators are poachers.

No. 6: Unplugged shotgun »161

Waterfowl hunters’ shotguns must have plugs in the magazine so their guns hold no more than three shells. The law has been around forever, yet every year many hunters are cited. An easy solution: Put your plug in and leave it in, even when hunting ruffed grouse or pheasants. It’s rare that you’ll ever need more than three shots anyway, Soring said.

No. 7: No blaze orange » 139

The blaze orange requirements for small and big game hunters also has been around for years, too, yet 139 violations were issued last year. “Wearing blaze orange has been shown to greatly increase safety,’’ Soring said.

No. 8: Taking game in a closed season » 126

Taking big game out of season is a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and $3,000 fine. Hunting small game out of season is a misdemeanor. Some cited last year were waterfowl hunters who didn’t realize shooting ended at 4 p.m. at the beginning of the season. And split waterfowl seasons, which began in 2011, have ensnared some hunters. Another reason to study that DNR regulation book.

No. 9: Untagged deer, fur, traps or nets » 124

Some of these are flagrant violations, people filling deer tags for party members not even in the field, Soring said.

No. 10: No federal waterfowl stamps » 122

A federal “duck stamp’’ has been needed to hunt waterfowl since 1934, yet each fall hunters are cited for not having one. Maybe they’re trying to save the stamp’s $15 cost, but a citation is far more expensive. Federal officials have made buying them easier: Hunters can get them at any post office or sporting goods stores or online.
 

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