Every fall, many Minnesotans travel north to hunt deer in the deer hunting season opener, which falls on the first Saturday in November. The 2020 deer season opener featured a unique accomplished by one Zimmerman man.
For Cory Klocek, a firefighter with the Baldwin Fire Department, he was expecting the morning of Saturday, Nov. 7 to be an ordinary hunt for a ten-point white-tailed deer buck at a friend’s property in East Bethel. After shooting the buck, he noticed something lurking from the distance. It was an alligator.
Klocek said at first he thought it was a joke.
“At first, I was confused,” Klocek said. “I thought somebody was trying to play a prank on me. [I thought] the [woman] that actually owns the farm where I was hunting put a rubber alligator or something out there to mess with me.”
When Klocek realized it was real, he said he decided to call the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. He knew that alligators are an invasive species to Minnesota. The DNR told him to kill the animal. After he heard the instructions, Klocek grabbed a smaller caliber rifle and humanely killed the alligator. Klocek said he and the Minnesota DNR don’t know exactly how an alligator ended up in central Minnesota but they assume it was someone’s pet alligator and not an animal from Como Park Zoo or the Minnesota Zoo.
“It wouldn’t have made it through our winter if it would’ve been back there,” he said. “Plus, it didn’t belong back there. To make its way up here from Louisiana is pretty unlikely. It does happen. There have been cases where they’ve found alligators before. They end up being somebody’s pet, so we’re thinking that it [was] somebody’s pet that lived nearby.
“If [the owner] would’ve put it in that pond, they would've had to trespass on two different people’s properties. So whether it got out of their enclosure that they had it in and found it’s way back there, it would still be about a 400-yard walk for it to get back to that pond.”
Klocek has been hunting since he was a boy. As a child, he would carry a BB gun with his family when they went bird hunting not necessarily to hunt but to learn how to carry a gun. He said hunting is life and allows him to put his energy into something else for a few hours.
“Being a veteran, it's a great escape to get away from the ruckus and noise of the city and relax and be with my thoughts and be quiet with myself and with nature.”
Klocek has approximately eight different species of animals in his collection, including American black bear, white-tailed deer, raccoon and now alligator. He said plans to include both in his taxidermy at his home.
“I’m doing a full shoulder mount,” Klocek said. “The deer is going to be looking down to the right with his ears pinned back as though he’s agitated or ready to fight. The alligator is going to be down below him to the right looking up at him. He’s going to be sitting on a dirt mound or a mud mound like it was when I saw him ready to snap at the deer."
Klocek’s weird day has garnered headlines in Minnesota and across the United States. His story has been featured on Fox9 News, Kare11 News and the New York Post. There is also a story posted on the Fox News website as well. On his Facebook page, he posted a photo of the deer and alligator. Part of the caption says, “Only in 2020 can you go out to sit for deer gun season opener in Minnesota and shoot an alligator.” He said his family is just confused and bewildered as he is by the whole ordeal.
“My wife said to me, ‘Mama needs a new purse,’” he said. “My family [is] all 100 percent on board. They all agree with me and the DNR that this thing was an invasive species and needed to be dealt with accordingly. I haven’t [had] any negative feedback from my family. They’re actually kind of proud of me for doing what I did.”
The reaction of the public on the other hand to Klocek’s kill has been mixed. Klocek said some people are mad at him for killing an alligator and even more.
“I get people mad at me for killing even a deer,” Klocek said. “Then, there’s also people mad at the owner of that alligator, the pet owner, for being an irresponsible pet owner.”
No matter what Klocek does next in life, he will have a story to tell to his about the events of Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020.
“Everybody’s going to remember 2020 in itself everybody that was alive to live through it,” he said. “That particular day I will remember for the rest of my life. I can’t wait until I’m a grandfather and you’ve always heard grandparents say, ‘Well, when I was a kid, I walked up hill both ways to and from school barefoot in five feet of snow.’ I can’t wait until I can say, ‘Well, when I was a kid and I used to hunt, we used to have to watch out for alligators when we hunted.”