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For some, hunting season means heading out to the deer stand, landing a once-in-a-lifetime buck and filling the freezer with meat and the wall with another mount, but for law enforcement the hunting season looks much different.
From enforcing the laws to responding to calls for help and providing education to those they come in contact with, local law enforcement officials find themselves busy with hunting calls throughout the season.
“I have responded to two firearms-related injures where another hunter had accidentally shot another hunter. Lucky for the individuals both were non-fatal,” said Isanti County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Chad Meyer. “I have also responded to hunters in need where they were having medicals in the field and a hunter that misplaced their foot while climbing their stand and became hung up on their tree stand and then passed due to complications from being upside down.”
For Meyer, with 11 1/2 years in law enforcement, calls like these come in far too often, and for that reason, he, along with Isanti County Sheriff Chris Caulk and Conservation Officer Angela Londgren have provided some tips and suggestions for how to stay safe this hunting season.
Treat every gun as if it were loaded
“Know your target and what’s behind it, always keep your firearm pointed in a safe direction, and keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot,” Meyer said.
Many of the most dangerous hunting situations occur when hunters use the wrong ammunition, assume their firearm isn’t loaded or hunt while intoxicated, according to Meyer.
“Wrong ammo could lead to catastrophic failure or malfunctions,” Meyer added.
As a firearms instructor for the sheriff’s office, Meyer works with deputies in regards to gun safety and skills, and to be better prepared for working on the streets and educating hunters as he responds to calls within the county.
“I became a firearms instructor to help other officers/deputies improve and hone their skills to become a more proficient shooter, to give the officers/deputies confidence during high-stress situations,” Meyer said.
Wear proper clothing
Wearing the proper colors and practicing safety while out in the stands are of utmost importance during deer hunting season, according to Londgren.
“Hunter safety is a priority. All hunters and trappers in the field during the opening of firearms/muzzle loader deer seasons must display blaze orange or pink on the visible portion of the person’s cap and outer clothing above the waist, excluding sleeves and gloves,” said Londgren.
“Blaze orange or pink camouflage patterns are allowed and must be at least 50% blaze or pink within each square foot. Exceptions during firearms/muzzle loader season are hunting migratory waterfowl while on the water or in a stationary location, and trapping while on the water,” she added.
“The main complaint we get by far is trespassing. Make sure you get permission, know whose land you are on, or if tracking a deer or downed animal that you are complying with all hunting laws,” Caulk said.
Londgren agreed that for conservation officers the number one complaint is also trespassing.
“Trespassing is the number one complaint I receive year-round as trespass law applies to all outdoor recreation. When taking part in outdoor recreation you may not enter legally posted land or agricultural land without permission,” Londgren said. “I encourage all landowners/lessees to review the trespassing section in the regulation book on page 8 to learn how to legally post their land. There can be civil or criminal penalties for violations of the trespass law. All conservation officers and peace officers enforce trespass law.”
Communication is key
While oftentimes hunters go out alone, it’s important to communicate with others so they are aware of times and locations and can report any concerns they may have.
“Always let someone know where you are, when (you) plan to leave and return. Wear a safety harness if hunting out of a stand, and have safety equipment with you to prepare for the worst should you be caught in a bad situation,” Londgren said.
For law enforcement officials, locating a hunter in distress is becoming easier with changing technology, but it’s always a good idea to know where you are, according to Meyer.
“It’s very important. Let others know where you’re hunting, have check-in times — with cellphones texting is easy and quiet,” Meyer said. “Trying to locate a hunter that is need of help that is trying to describe the woods can prove to be difficult to follow the directions. Use of new 911 technology is helping law enforcement pinpoint cellphone calls.”
He also suggested marking a trail to your stand in case first responders need to find you.
In addition to knowing the approximate location, having GPS coordinates can also prove beneficial, according to Caulk.
“Make sure someone knows where you are at and preferable your GPS coordinates,” Caulk said. “If you need help, call 911 from a cellphone, as it should track you to where you are at, but if it does not, you need to be able to tell us where you are at as we cannot help you if we cannot find you.”
“Always pick up a new Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Book or visit the Minnesota DNR website at www.dnr.state.mn.us, and review it before hunting, as it is your responsibility to know the laws. The front of the book will have a page that shows any new changes for that year,” Londgren said. “Shooting hours for deer season are a half hour before sunrise to a half hour after sunset.”
“Check the 2019 Deer Season Area Map for your area season dates, management designations, rifle/shotgun boundary, deer area boundaries, CWD feeding ban areas and management areas. Note: Isanti County Highway 95 is the dividing line for shotgun/rifle zones,” Londgren added.
Call the DNR Information Center at 888-MINNDNR (888-646-6367) with any questions or for more information.
To report a violation in progress or to contact a conservation officer immediately, call the TIP line, the Turn in Poachers 24-hour hotline, at 800-652-9093.
To report an emergency, contact law enforcement at 911, or for questions in Isanti County, call the non-emergency line at 763-689-2141; in Chisago County, call 651-257-4100.