District 5 — Eveleth area

Conservation Officer Darrin Kittelson (International Falls 1) reports the 2021 firearms deer season opener was busy with lots of people enjoying the nice weather. Most deer camps reporting some success, some better than others. Enforcement action was taken for hunting deer with the use of bait; failure to validate site tag; discharging firearm with a road right of way at big game animal; borrowing lending licenses; and operating ATV during closed hours. People are encouraged to stop road hunting and baiting deer.

CO Curtis Simonson (International Falls 2) reports working the busy and much anticipated Firearms Deer season opener this past weekend. The warm weather had many hunters out enjoying the weekend. Enforcement action taken this past week consisted of hunting deer with the use or aid of bait and not validating site tags. CO Simonson assisted neighboring officers with someone shooting a deer within the road right of way.

CO John Slatinski IV (Ray) Monitored whitefish netting activity on area lakes. Success was reported and observed to be slower than previous years. The CO handled complaints of animals injured by motor vehicles on area highways. Deer became markedly active with several bucks observed during daylight hours chasing does across roadways. With the opening of the firearms deer season, calls of illegal activity jumped and several individuals were contacted for a variety of deer hunting related violations.

CO Troy Fondie (Orr) reports the deer opener was a non-event with the lowest number of hunters and deer taken he has seen. Numerous complaints of no deer and high wolf numbers. A number of campsites and hunting cabins were vacant. Area lakes were checked along with local forest roads. Waterfowl activity was monitored. A midweek snow storm appears to be bearing down on the northland to once again change the landscape. Watercraft winter prep continues.

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CO Aaron Larson (Tower) worked primarily small game and deer hunters. Hunters found little success over the opening weekend with reports of very little deer movement. Larson also spent time investigating deer hunting violations.

CO Marc Johnson (Hibbing) primarily worked big game activity over the firearms deer season opener. Many hunters found limited success over the weekend, with many reporting not seeing many deer or hearing many shots. Warm weather contributed, but also made for comfortable sitting conditions. Violations encountered included hunting over bait, no deer license in possession, and driving after revocation.

CO Shane Zavodnik (Virginia) reports a busy opening weekend with the firearms deer season in full swing. Per usual, addressing individuals hunting over bait was the main focus for the first two days of the rifle season. It was disappointing to see that of the six hunting over bait violations addressed, three of the adults had a minor either hunting or were accompanying them in the stand, and another adult was knowingly allowing the minor to hunt over a pile of corn.

Zavodnik encountered several deer hunting license violations, addressed illegally placed “No Trespassing” signs, and assisted local law enforcement with a felon who fled into the woods.

He also assisted State Patrol with an individual who was suffering a medical condition while driving and crashed their vehicle into the woods. Luckily, the driver sustained only minor injuries during the crash.

CO Duke Broughten (Aurora) spent the week monitoring hunting and trapping activity. Grouse hunter success increased this week whereas waterfowl hunters report seeing few ducks. CO Broughten worked firearm deer opener where deer hunters report seeing few deer. CO Broughten investigated violations of hunt deer with the aid of bait; no blaze orange during firearms deer season; trespass; and hunter harassment.

District 6 — Two Harbors area

CO Sean Williams (Ely 1) reports the Echo trail had nearly double the deer hunting activity and hunting camps compared to recent years over this mild opener. Although the volume of hunters was very high, success remained extremely low with the majority of camps reporting no success or even a sighting of a buck. Violations included taking deer over bait.

CO John Velsvaag (Ely) checked anglers, whitefish netters and deer hunters this past week. Several calls came in about deer permit areas and deer baiting. CO Velsvaag also followed up on big game complaints and netting complaints.

CO Thomas Wahlstrom (Grand Marais) checked deer hunters over the opening weekend and followed up on complaints. The officer spent time at Camp Ripley for training. Enforcement action was taken for hunting over bait; shoot big game from a road; take antlerless deer without permit; and hunting license violations.

CO Mary Manning (Hovland) worked a warm firearms deer opener; deer were scarce by most reports. A couple trespass calls were handled before and during the opening weekend.

Officer Manning took a call of a stranded motorist on a snowmobile trail; the man reported they had been looking for a place to camp and decided a snowmobile trail in an area with no cell phone service was a good spot. The driver said they hiked out and hitchhiked to a spot with phone service, but were having a hard time finding a tow driver to go on the trail to pull them out, hinting that perhaps the local CO would help out; she would not. A professional tow was located and after paying the bill to have the tow driver use a skid steer to pull the SUV out and then tow it, the driver probably wishes he would have paid for a campground site.

CO Anthony Bermel (Babbitt) worked the week leading up to the firearms deer opener and the opening weekend. The warm weather seemed to cause slower deer movement with little rutting activity reported. A few nice bucks were taken, but most observed were young deer. Enforcement action included hunting deer with aid of bait; untagged deer; fail to validate deer tag; and transport loaded firearm in motor vehicle. A trespass case is also pending charges.

CO David Schottenbauer (Silver Bay) worked area deer hunting activity all week. Time was also spent enforcing ATV rules in closed areas of the state trail and State Highway 1.

CO Kylan Hill (Tofte) reports a busy weekend in Cook County. Hill made contact with four hunters on their stands, which had been previously discovered to be baited. All were cited for hunting over bait and their equipment was seized. Hill noticed a common theme: “I put that out a long time ago; I thought it would be gone.” It is the responsibility of the hunter to know what is in front of their stand and if they plan on placing feed, make sure every grain is picked up 10 days prior to hunting.

Hill made contact with a party leaving a popular hunting area on opening day. The hunter stopped their truck and began talking to Hill about their hunt. It became apparent right away that something was going on and this prompted Hill to investigate further. The driver was later arrested for DUI. Even though Hill did not contact them hunting, they admitted they had consumed multiple beers throughout the day while hunting. Not only does alcohol and driving not mix well, alcohol and hunting is just as serious.

CO Don Murray (Two Harbors) worked a warm and pleasant firearms deer opener. Hunters were seeing deer but harvest seemed a bit quiet for the opening weekend. Enforcement action was taken for some ATV and deer baiting violations, but overall, law compliance was good. Murray answered several questions related to youth hunting and deer license questions.

District 7 — Grand Rapids area

CO Vinny Brown (Northome) followed up on a wetland violation, investigated a beaver trap theft, and took numerous complaints of spruce-top theft. Deer opener weekend was spent checking deer hunters, ATV enforcement, and following up on Turn in Poachers calls. Enforcement action was taken for leaving decoys and a jon boat unattended for several days on forestry land and public waters; expired ATV registration; transporting a loaded firearm on an ATV; possession of an untagged deer; and illegal deer shining.

CO Jayson Hansen (Bigfork) patrolled state parks, worked anglers, big game, small game, watercraft and ATVs. Numerous game and fish questions were answered. He also responded to wildlife complaints and assisted other agencies.

CO Mike Fairbanks (Deer River) worked the firearms opener, investigated Turn in Poachers complaints and checked anglers this week. Angler success was good while hunter success was slower. CO Fairbanks and his K-9 partner, Si, also assisted in locating evidence in an ongoing investigation. Enforcement action was taken for transport loaded firearm and expired registration on ATV.

CO Brian Holt (Grand Rapids) monitored small game hunting and recreational vehicle activity during the past week. Time was also spent working a busy opening weekend of the firearms deer season in the Grand Rapids area. Complaints were received involving hunter harassment and trespassing. Enforcement action involved big game hunting violations. Holt worked with other officers in assisting local law enforcement with locating a lost hunter.

CO Thomas Sutherland (Grand Rapids) worked a busy week prior to firearms deer opener with many archery hunters in the woods taking advantage of prime rut conditions. CO Sutherland observed a more than average hunter participation rate with many sportsmen in the woods pursing whitetails. Enforcement action was taken for hunting deer over a baited area; failing to register a deer; failing to tag a deer; and failing to validate a deer tag.

CO Jimmy Van Asch (Pengilly) reports working the opening of the firearms deer season. Overall, success rates for hunters were significantly low throughout the surrounding area. Enforcement action was taken for hunting deer over bait; untagged deer; fail to validate site tag; transporting loaded firearms; and operating ATVs during the closed hours within the deer season.

CO Taylor Hochstein (Hill City) enjoyed talking with deer hunters over the busy firearms opener. Overall harvest rates in the area seemed to be lower than average likely due to the unseasonably warm weather. Several youth hunters were contacted in the field and reported shooting their first deer this year.

District 8 — Duluth area

CO Jacob Willis (Brookston) saw many people out hunting the firearms deer opener, but saw little success. Ongoing cases continued to be worked and hunters were checked in the field. Enforcement action was taken for transporting a loaded firearm, operating with expired ATV registration, fail to transfer ownership and careless ATV operation.

CO Andy Schmidt (Duluth West) followed up on trespassing complaints and baiting Turn in Poachers in preparation for deer season. Time was spent working ATV complaints areas and the officer attended training at Camp Ripley. Deer opener was worked and success was limited in the area but hunters were able to work on a tan in the stand. Very few deer were seen and the most common question asked was: “When will we have a wolf season again?”

CO Kipp Duncan (Duluth East) spent time training at Camp Ripley and several nights were worked monitoring night shining complaint areas. Preseason baiting complaints were investigated prior to opener. The 2021 firearm deer opener started with rain in the morning and sun and upper 60s by mid-afternoon. Hunters were checked throughout the day, with the majority having not taken a deer. A trespass complaint was investigated and several calls were handled with a phone call. On Sunday several harvested deer were seen throughout the day. Issues with baiting, tagging, and validating tags were addressed.

CO Jeff Humphrey (Cromwell) worked firearms deer opener investigating complaints of trespass, hunting w/out license and baiting. Other contacts included unlawful ATV operation; transporting loaded firearms; tagging issues; unlawful transportation big game and licensing issues. Overall, the season started slow with hunters reporting minimal shooting and very mild weather limiting deer movement.

Lake Superior Marine Unit

CO Keith Olson (Lake Superior Marine Unit) worked opening weekend of deer season in the Meadowlands and Floodwood areas. The seasonably mild temperatures had many hunters spending all day in the woods and tree stands. Unfortunately, the number of deer harvested seemed low to this officer and hunters checked in the field, many reported not seeing deer or tracks in their hunting areas. Violations involved ATV, minor licensing issues and trespass and posting problems. Assistance was given to the State Patrol on a stalled bus with passengers along Highway 53.

CO Matt Miller (Lake Superior Marine Unit) checked commercial cisco and lake trout nets. A few late-season trollers were making use of the nice weather to try for salmon and rainbows. Deer hunters were checked with low success due to high winds and warm temps on opening weekend. A juvenile ATV operator stopped for operation and licensing violations was found doing the same thing at the same time the following day. Follow up was completed with the parents. Enforcement action taken for ATV and big game violations.