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MN Conservation Officer Tales - April 2007

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CO Randy Hanzal (Brookston) stopped two snowmobilers committing several violations. The officer gave them a break and issued only one citation believing they would control their behavior. An hour later the two were again observed speeding and a chase ensued. After several miles one of the snowmobiles threw a belt and the operator was apprehended. The two again asked for mercy from the officer saying they couldn’t afford another ticket.


CO Dustie Heaton (Willow River) received a call from an individual whose cat left a “surprise” for her. The cat had caught and killed a weasel and left it on her bedroom floor.


CO Paul Kuske (Pierz) was leaving for work and found a snowmobiler stuck in the ditch at the end of the driveway. The snowmobile did not have registration. While the owner was fumbling through his wallet for his ID, a folded up piece of paper fell out. Kuske recognized it as a DNR ticket. Upon closer inspection it was a ticket for snowmobile registration issued by CO Thesing a week prior. Failing to learn his lesson, the man was issued another ticket for operating an unregistered snowmobile.


CO Chad Thesing (Albany) was working with CO Rob Haberman (St. Cloud) when they encountered two ATVs being driven on a county road. Citations were issued and the ATVs were sent on their way. Four hours later and 10 miles away, the same group was found driving on another county road. Both men hung their heads and realized they were wrong.


CO Dean Olson (Rochester) reported a father had his 3-to 4-year-old child, who wasn’t wearing a helmet, riding on the back of his ATV. Following closely was his 7-year-old son driving another ATV followed by two friends who were about 11 and 12 driving a third ATV.


CO Tim Collette (Longville) checked anglers with CO/Pilot Don Murray (Grand Rapids) from the plane one day. A couple of anglers were so surprised to see a plane drop into the small lake that, even though they tried, they could not get all the extra fish shoved down the hole in time to avoid a citation. A citation was issued and all the fish seized.


While checking anglers on Garfield Lake, CO Neil Freborg (Lake George) watched traffic going to and coming from the weekly ice races. He saw a pickup moving toward shore at a high rate of speed, sliding from side to side on the icy road. The pickup got past the first car it met, but went plowing into a snowdrift when it met a second vehicle.

The pickup driver tried repeatedly to get out of the drift. He finally gave up, got out of his truck, and sheepishly approached the officer’s truck, asking for help in getting out. After a short discussion regarding his driving conduct, Officer Freborg pulled him out and sent him on his way with some fatherly advice.


CO Joyce Kuske (Little Falls) reported a snowmobiler probably made DNR history with the most violations. A group of eight snowmobiles were checked on a trail and one person claimed to owning all eight of them, even though seven of them had expired registration and none of them had state trail stickers, making a total of 15 violations for one person.


CO Brad Schultz (Center City) was working an area trail when he spoke with a dad and his young son who were out for an afternoon ride. A short time later the officer clocked a sled at 90 mph coming from the direction the father and son team had traveled. The sled was stopped. Moments later the dad returned to the officer’s location, jumped off his sled and approached the son, all the while shouting at him about blowing past them at “100 miles per hour.” The officer had to physically restrain the father from going after the son. The son made the comment, “I always try to ride respectfully.” He also claimed not to know there was a 50 mph speed limit on the trail.


CO Travis Muyres (Ham Lake) encountered an angler who was reluctant to show the officer the fish that were in his bucket. The angler made a dash into his fish house in an attempt to dump the fish back down the hole. A brief wrestling match ensued and Muyres victoriously came up with an 11-inch illegal walleye. The angler was subsequently arrested for obstruction, failure to submit to inspection and possession of walleye out of season.


CO Tyler Quandt (Red Wing) came across a boater who had used a black marker to write in “2008” on his 2006 registration number.


CO Vuthy Pril (ELCOP) responded to a call involving a tarantula that an individual released into the wild. Pril found the spider in a big cardboard box at a National Wildlife Refuge in Dakota County. The spider was rescued and the previous owner was cited for littering.


Officer Jeremy Woinarowicz (Thief River Falls) was patrolling in the Thief River Falls area when he noticed a snowmobile approaching in the ditch. As the machine passed he noted an expired registration, but what was more concerning was the large owl stuffed behind the snowmobile’s windshield! After stopping the individual, the operator told Woinarowicz he had discovered the owl on the roadway. The man went on to explain he thought the bird was a ruffed grouse, and was bringing it to show a relative. The story of mistaken identity was even less believable after Woinarowicz ran a field sobriety test indicating the subject was too intoxicated to operate a snowmobile. The subject was arrested for snowmobiling while intoxicated and a subsequent blood alcohol test revealed a level over twice the legal operating limit.


CO Bret Grundmeier (Hinckley) assisted the Kanabec Sheriff’s Office with the prosecution of two pheasant poachers. The individuals decided to go for a drive while drunk, shoot through an open vehicle window at a pheasant that was near the road, and then attempt to hide the shotgun in a snow bank just before officers arrived. The poachers made things a little easier for officers by driving into the ditch and getting stuck at the poaching site. One of the poachers said, “We thought it would be nice to take the gravel road, see if maybe we could shoot supper or something, you know.” The driver was arrested for DWI and citations for illegal transportation of firearms and taking pheasant out of season were issued.


While CO Joyce Kuske (Little Falls) was on patrol she drove by a rural residence and noticed kids in their yard playing with a whitetail deer. Kuske stopped to talk with the owners who said (while the deer was chewing on Kuske’s shirt) they had gotten the deer from a game farm and had raised it as a pet. Now that the deer was getting big it was getting harder for them to care for it and they had tried to “release it to the wild” but it kept coming back. Kuske informed them it is illegal to release a game farm deer to the wild. One guess as to what they named the deer? Bambi, of course.


CO Paul Kuske (Pierz) checked a person on Sullivan Lake who bragged that fishing had been very good for him lately. When the officer inquired as to what he was doing with all of his fish, the person stated he and his wife were eating quite a few and taking the last of the fish to an elderly couple in town. The man even proudly displayed the check for $20 he received from the old couple for the fish. Kuske explained giving someone fish and receiving money constitutes a sale, which is illegal on both ends. Buying or selling wild game and fish is illegal. Embarrassed, but with a frightful look on his face, the man explained he had no idea what he did was wrong and promptly tore up the check.


CO Corey Wiebusch (Mankato) came across two anglers who decided shore fishing would be more enjoyable if marijuana were involved. Wiebusch watched the two for nearly an hour then checked for licenses. After the license check, Wiebusch asked for the marijuana. Reaching in his pockets, the individual stated he didn’t have any and didn’t know what the officer was talking about. Knowing which pocket contained the marijuana, the officer suggested he reach a little deeper into “that” pocket. The individual hung his head and enforcement action was taken.


While checking anglers on area lakes, CO/Pilot Al Buchert (Grand Rapids) and CO Marty Stage (Babbitt) noticed black smoke rising from a distant lakeshore. Upon landing the aircraft on the lake, the officers took enforcement action for burning illegal materials including furniture, appliances and a computer. An old TV on the rack of a four-wheeler was near the blaze.


While flying over Lake Winnibigoshish, CO Pilot Don Murray (Grand Rapids) spotted a vehicle that had partially gone through the ice while trying to cross an ice ridge. Murray quickly landed his aircraft on the lake to help. Fortunately, the occupants had gotten out safely but were a bit shaken by the ordeal.


A 16-year-old was stopped on his ATV, after CO Don Bozovsky (Hibbing) followed him at a distance of only 20 feet with lights and siren on for quite some time. The teen had altered the exhaust making it almost impossible to hear the siren. He was also stopped because he was driving on a state highway, had no driver’s license and was driving on a “bicycle only” trail. The mother was cited for allowing illegal operation.


CO Bret Grundmeier (Hinckley) finished up an investigation with charges of taking wild turkey out of season. In this case, the poacher hit a wild turkey with his car and instead of calling the CO, went home to get a shotgun. Evidently the temptation was too powerful as the poacher went back to where he hit the turkey with his car and tried to get another.


CO Joyce Kuske (Little Falls) issued a car-kill permit to an unlucky driver whose car was extensively damaged after hitting a turkey. The driver said he was going to eat the turkey for dinner since it cost him his $250 insurance deductible.


CO Thephong Le (ELCOP) and CO Thor Nelson (Bloomington) responded to a call of three deer having fallen through the ice on Kohlman Lake in Maplewood. Upon arrival, two of the three deer had freed themselves. Borrowing a canoe from a nearby homeowner, the officers battled ice and wind to successfully retrieve and revive the third deer before safely releasing it on shore.


DNR Chief Pilot Mike Trenholm flew a patrol with state conservation officers in Cass, Crow Wing and Aitkin counties checking areas closed to ATV use. Several groups were discovered in the closed areas and ground officers made contacts with the violators. It was discovered that one of the violators had his driving privileges canceled. He told a conservation officer he was contemplating fleeing the scene, but when he turned around and saw the DNR helicopter hovering behind his group of ATVs, he decided running was pointless.

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