Poaching of deer peaks at this time of year, when the animals are on the move during the fall breeding season. The most common method used by poachers is "shining," whereby a light is beamed at the deer, typically causing it to become motionless and vulnerable to a bullet.
It's illegal for any person to cast the ray of a spotlight, headlight, or other artificial light on a road, field or forest to locate or take a wild animal while in possession of a firearm, bow or other implement that could kill an animal. Exceptions are if the firearm is unloaded, cased and in the closed trunk of a vehicle, or if a bow is completely cased or unstrung and in the trunk.
Other restrictions prohibit the use of a spotlight, headlight, or other artificial light between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. from Sept. 1 to Dec. 31. It's not a violation to shine lights while doing agricultural, occupational, or recreational activities not related to spotting, locating or taking a wild animal.
Minnesota hunting regulations also apply to tribal members who leave reservation and ceded lands and commit violations on state lands.
"Once they leave the reservation or ceded lands they face the same rules as other Minnesota hunters," Hamm said.
Conservation officers have legal authority to seize licenses, firearms, animals and motor vehicles under Minnesota's enhanced gross over-limits regulations passed by the Legislature in 2003. Fines and restitution can amount to thousands of dollars.
Deer hunters also are reminded to avoid trespassing on Indian reservation lands or other private property, especially ceded lands outside main reservation boundaries. These parcels vary in size.
"Red Lake tribal game wardens are planning a strong trespass enforcement effort on their ceded lands during the Minnesota deer season," said Jim Dunn, DNR district enforcement supervisor at Baudette. "Hunters should also be aware that there are privately owned lands within state forests and WMAs."
Hunters may cross ceded lands to access state land, either on foot or in a motor vehicle using existing roads or trails, as long as their firearms are unloaded and cased.
Tribal wardens have authority to stop and question any hunter encountered on tribal lands.
Shining is legal when conducted within the framework of the law, but recreational shiners should not beam lights on livestock, barns and houses and ideally should get landowner approval before shining.
"We get complaints every year about legal shining that nonetheless irks landowners," Dunn said.
"Shiners must remember that the future of recreational shining depends on maintaining the good will and positive relations between them and landowners."
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