Minnesota conservation officers targeted a type of illegal deer hunting in mid-November in the far north near Blackduck that is common, but an unusually dangerous part of their job.
There were multiple violations, ranging from shooting a deer from a motor vehicle and from a roadway to carrying loaded firearms, and all centered on a single act: making a deer shine.
Scofflaws often use strong lights to locate deer, which freeze when brought into the light, making them easy targets.
How Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officers (COs) approach such a risky scenario is also common, but perhaps little known. Stags shining under the cloak of darkness, often on rural property, in close proximity to firepower, pose a threat that transcends the day-to-day duty of most commanders.
Across the state, officers rely on eye coordination in the air and on the ground to catch perpetrators.
Commanders consider reports from landowners of shines or gunshots or even dead whitetail deer when deciding where to patrol at night, Maj. Robert Gorecki said. Aviation officers can cover large swaths of territory. Pilot and Commander Bob Geving of Mankato said some of his brilliant detail ranged from a 10 to 40 mile radius, and he can expect six to eight missions scheduled from fall to early winter.
While some offenders have switched to less visible light sources to attract deer, commanders have an advantageous perspective from above and use night vision optics and GPS to relay information to teams in the vicinity of suspicious behavior. .
“We’re hoping for more tools,” said Geving, who has been an aviation officer since 2007.
Most pilots also work as a team, with a technical flight officer on board to help manage surveillance logistics. Having a bird’s eye view and the stealth of aircraft sometimes allows officers to track suspicious characters away from the scene and back to their residences, also reducing the threat of, for example, a head-on confrontation with a police stop. traffic, Gorecki said.
“The most important thing when placing officers is their safety,” said Gorecki, who added that several officers are still involved in brilliant operations.
The illegal gloss should not be confused with the recreational version – for some Minnesotans it’s a hobby of searching for and viewing wildlife at night.
But a Minnesota law enacted in 2009 aimed at reducing poaching and inconveniencing businesses and landowners shortened the window of light to two hours after sunset year-round. Among other changes aimed at separating poachers’ types of hobbies, the new law also prohibits shining in possession of a firearm, bow or other device that can be used to capture wild animals. Shining on a residence or construction site, a complaint often heard from law enforcement, was also banned.
Commanders have issued 10 brilliant citations and three warnings this year and received 12 citations and four warnings in 2021. The general fine is $200, but hunting privileges can also be lost, depending on the number of violations and other factors.
Tyler Quandt, an officer in southeastern Minnesota, patrols an area known for its big bucks, which makes it prime habitat for minnows, legal and otherwise. Although he still receives glowing complaints, he said the new rules have had an impact.
“The landowners loved it, and it gives a minnow a reasonable chance of doing it right. It’s easy for people to understand what they can and can’t do,” said Quandt, who has been a commander for more than 30 years. years and advised stakeholders in the drafting of the new regulations.
Even in the face of the dangers posed by those who continue to do the wrong thing, Quandt is confident that the DNR can control illegal gloss.
“One thing we have in our favor – we have the law and the penalties to go with it,” he said.
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