MINNEAPOLIS -- Baiting, illegal party hunting and transporting loaded firearms are the three most common Minnesota deer hunting violations, according to statistics kept by the Enforcement Division of the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
DNR Conservation Officer Jeff Denz of Willmar said overall compliance with statewide deer hunting regulations is very good. With nearly 500,000 whitetail hunters afield last year, only 1,400 were busted by game wardens in the 10 categories that represent the vast majority of enforcement actions, according to the stats.
"We go from group to group and it's just a small percentage of hunters who knowingly or unknowingly are breaking the law," said Denz, a 10-year veteran of the game warden staff.
Here is a breakdown of those most common violations:
-- Hunting with the aid of bait
Patty Holt of DNR's Enforcement Division said hunting over bait was the single most common bust during last year's deer season. Nearly 200 citations were issued and another 56 hunters received warnings, Holt said.
Under the law, all bait or feed must be removed from hunting grounds at least 10 days before shooting. In the event of a detected violation, the site is placed off-limits to all hunters for 10 days and the violator could lose hunting privileges for a year, Denz said. Generally speaking, conservation officers also will confiscate a violator's firearm.
"If one guy in a group is baiting, he is affecting all other hunters on the same property," Denz said.
Cracking down on people who hunt deer with the aid of bait is an enforcement priority, Denz said. Fines run as high as $375. But it's a difficult regulation to enforce. Locating the bait can be challenging, and it's difficult to catch someone in the act of hunting over bait. He cautioned that some deer lures in the shape of salt blocks and mineral blocks are considered food.
Denz said comprehensive deer-feeding bans in the three large zones where the DNR is conducting surveillance for chronic wasting disease (CWD) this fall will simplify baiting cases in those areas. That's because feeding is completely off limits in any part of the zones this year.