Sportmen's Show on collision course with Minnesota DNR over trophy buck exhibit

Tony Kennedy, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Outdoors

MINNEAPOLIS -- Prominent Minnesota deer farmer Steve Porter says he'll keep his commitment to show three monster bucks at the Minnesota Sportsmen's Show in defiance of an emergency rule that temporarily bans the movement of all farmed deer in the state.

The former sheriff of Kittson County said he'll fight any charges that result from trailering the animals from his ranch near Lake Bronson to St. Paul's RiverCentre for the four-day gathering that begins Thursday.

"What type of rule is this for me not to conduct and fulfill my contract?" Porter said in an interview. "I've got to stand up and let the chips fall where they may."

Col. Rodmen Smith, enforcement division chief at the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), said Porter has been warned that there's no exceptions to the emergency rule. It was imposed Dec. 23 for at least a month to protect Minnesota's wild deer from further spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD). Violation of the rule would be a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and up to 90 days in jail.

"If he does bring a deer, he'll be in violation of state law," Smith said. "I don't like to speculate as to what we'll do if it happens."

The DNR's top cop also said that the Sportsmen's Show, in its 50th year and expecting as many as 20,000 visitors, has been informed it will have illegal deer in the show if Porter's trophy bucks are allowed as an attraction. The case has the attention of DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen. One of her assistant commissioners, Bob Meier, has spoken directly to Porter.


Barry Cenaiko, the show's manager, declined to comment. He's been promoting Porter's freakishly antlered whitetails as a highlight of this year's gathering. The pen-reared bucks, with names like Heart Attack and Typhoon, have been delighting Sportsmen's Show visitors for more than a dozen years.

Minnesota's approximately 335 deer and elk farms are regulated by the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. But when the five governors of that agency declined recently to act on a recommendation to temporarily prohibit any shipment of captive deer, the DNR invoked an emergency ban. The rule is scheduled to expire Jan. 29.

The agency said the state needs the temporary freeze to evaluate the latest outbreak of CWD detected in an 8-year-old white-tailed doe on a hobby farm in Douglas County. DNR is working with the Board of Animal Health to trace the past movements of deer to and from the farm to search for other diseased deer. For the time being, any potentially diseased deer related to the hobby farm can't spread CWD to a new area.

The DNR is already monitoring for CWD in other parts of the state where the always-fatal animal disease has been discovered.


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