Dumping deer carcasses gives hunters a bad name

Brad Nelson was driving a gravel road north of East Grand Forks recently when he came across a sight that, unfortunately, has become all too familiar during deer season.

Brad Nelson was driving a gravel road north of East Grand Forks recently when he came across a sight that, unfortunately, has become all too familiar during deer season.

"I drove by the farm, and there's a deer hide with a head on it" in the Grand Marais Coulee, said Nelson, East Grand Forks. "I thought, (doggone) it, they're doing it again."

Actually, he used a word that's a bit stronger than "doggone" to describe his disgust, but you get the gist.

"It," in this case, is the practice of dumping deer carcasses - the bones and crud that's left over after the meat has been removed - in waterways, roadside ditches or other highly visible places.

Besides being illegal, dumping carcasses is unsightly and gives all deer hunters a bad name.


"The weekend before, I found seven carcasses in the ditch," Nelson said. "There's stuff all over. I know if I drove around for an hour, I'd find five or six places" where people have dumped carcasses.

Nelson, who showed off some of this slob hunter handiwork Friday morning, is hardly alone in his experience. The most recent weekly report from Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conservation officers was filled with complaints of deer carcasses being dumped illegally all across the state.

Perhaps the most blatant case, though - in this area, at least - was reported last weekend in Traill County, N.D., where someone dumped more than a dozen deer carcasses into the Elm River near Hillsboro.

Gary Rankin, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department warden who responded to the complaint, said it's a common problem this time of year.

"It's offensive to everybody," Rankin said. "Especially people that don't hunt.

"It's stinky and not pretty."

Proper disposal of deer carcasses shouldn't be rocket science, but it should go without saying that you don't dump them in plain view.

Dumping them in a river or coulee is especially tasteless.


"I think the worst possible option is throwing them in a waterway," Rankin said. "We're concerned about water quality, and rotting carcasses doesn't help that a bit."

For hunters with garbage pickup, at least, the best option would be to dispose of the carcasses through their local waste-disposal service. It's best to check first, of course, since different garbage companies have different policies.

"It would depend on the garbage service, but if those carcasses were cut into pieces and bagged, I think garbage services will take them," Rankin said.

Representatives from the East Grand Forks and Grand Forks departments that handle garbage pickup weren't available Friday to comment on policies in the two cities.

Another option, of course, is to find a farmer or landowner friend who doesn't mind having a deer carcass left in a rock pile or field where it's out of sight and available to scavengers.

Rankin said he often ends up moving carcasses dumped in bad places. If there's more than one, he says, he'll spread the carcasses around in game management areas, where predators or birds make short work of them.

Improper disposal of deer carcasses is considered littering in both Minnesota and North Dakota, and the penalty can vary depending on severity. Littering in Minnesota is a misdemeanor. In North Dakota, Rankin said, anything larger than one cubic foot is a Class B misdemeanor.

"That's a little bit hard to measure, but one deer carcass is probably approaching that," he said.


Smaller amounts are noncriminal violations.

Rankin said he is investigating one case in which he removed the tag from a deer carcass that had been thrown in a ditch. There's a good chance that person - we won't use the word hunter - will be cited for littering.

"It's not a violation that's damaging to the resource, but it's damaging to hunters' image and hunting," Rankin said.

Think about that next time you're tempted to toss that deer carcass someplace it shouldn't be.

You know who you are, and it's time to clean up your act.

Reach Dokken at 780-1148, (800) 477-6572 ext. 148, or .

Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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