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DNR conservation officer frees entangled buck, euthanizes rival buck badly injured in mating season battle

One of the deer had injuries to its head and was almost dead, conservation officer Ben Huener of Roseau, Minnesota, wrote in Monday's weekly report from DNR enforcement officers across the state.

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It happens every year during the rut, it seems – rival bucks getting their antlers stuck together while battling for a mate. While impressive to witness, it's the kind of spectacle that often ends badly for at least one of the deer.

Such was the case late Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 24,, when Ben Huener, a conservation officer for the Department of Natural Resources in Roseau, Minnesota, responded to a call of two large bucks south of Badger, Minnesota, whose antlers were stuck together.

One of the deer had injuries to its head and was almost dead when Huener arrived shortly after sunset, he told the Herald. The buck wasn't going to make it, Huener said, and so he euthanized the deer with help from the landowners.

The other buck, he said, "was still pretty lively and pretty feisty."

"One of the landowners was able to get a saw, and he was able to saw one of the antlers off of the now-dead buck," Huener said. "And the other one, as soon the antler broke free, shot off like a rocket to fight another day."

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The bucks were smaller 8- or 10-pointers, Huener said. "They weren't real trophy animals, but they had lots of points," he said.

Huener said he wasn't able to photograph the entangled bucks, but the landowner took possession of the buck that was killed to try and salvage the meat.

"I don't know how good of quality it was after that," he said. "Who knows how long they had been stuck together? They were going to give it a try, and they were gutting it and skinning it as I was leaving."

In his 13 years as a DNR conservation officer, Huener says he'd never come across an encounter with entangled bucks before last week.

"I've heard lots of stories and seen pictures," he said. "I know it happens in the wild and it probably happens a lot away from human eyes, and it's worse if they can't get help."

Here's a look at other reports from conservation officers across northwest Minnesota and adjacent areas of northern Minnesota as highlighted in the weekly report from DNR Enforcement for Monday, Nov. 29:

District 1 - Baudette area

In addition to the encounter with the entangled bucks, CO Huener completed some cases from the firearms deer and investigated complaints from the archery and muzzleloader deer seasons. A bald eagle was also captured and transported to a wildlife rehabber.

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CO Corey Sura (Baudette East) took care of some housekeeping items from the firearms deer season. A hunter participating in the muzzleloader season was found hunting over bait. Enforcement action was taken.

CO Jeremy Woinarowicz (Thief River Falls West) continued to conduct follow-up interviews for ongoing cases from the deer season. Interviews resulted in the seizure of two whitetail buck heads, processed meat and a rifle. Charges pending include deer overlimit, borrowing a big-game license, untagged big game, transporting illegally taken big game, recreational trespass and failure to register a big-game animal.

CO Tony Elwell (Thief River Falls East) investigated violations from the firearms deer season this week and worked the muzzleloader opener this weekend. Ice anglers were checked on the Red Lake River. Ice conditions are still very dynamic. Use extreme caution if you choose to venture out onto the ice.

CO Demosthenes Regas (Blackduck South) reports working trapping, muzzleloader hunting and angling activity this past week. Time was spent working on deer-hunting cases from the firearms season and issuing wildlife-possession permits. Regas reports ice conditions are improving, with most lakes freezing over. Anglers are starting to venture out on foot. Regas cautions those venturing out on the ice, as ice conditions vary from lake to lake and often vary on the same body of water.

CO Nicholas Prachar (Blackduck North) followed up on complaints from the firearms deer season and prepared for the upcoming ice fishing season. Prachar heard numerous reports of people on the ice and of people falling through the ice on area lakes. Be certain the ice is safe before venturing onto it.

Warroad #1 – vacant.

Warroad #2 – vacant.

Baudette #1 – vacant.

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District 2 - Bemidji area

CO Tom Hutchins (Crookston) reports continuing to work on big-game-related cases. Follow-up work was also started on pending public waters-related cases.

CO Brice Vollbrecht (Bemidji #1) worked on completing investigations related to the firearms deer season.

CO Chris Vinton (Perham) reports fielding question related to the muzzleloader deer season and limits and assisting the region with the airboat should it be needed with early ice conditions. Some anglers ventured onto area lakes with walkable ice on a few Perham-area lakes. There were some muzzleloader hunters taking advantage of the nice weather during the opening weekend.

CO Jake Swedberg (Detroit Lakes) spent the week checking area lakes for ice fishing activity and following up on cases from the rifle deer season. Several lakes in the area are starting to form good ice and the first ice anglers of the season were checked. While the anglers were excited to be out, fishing was slow.

CO Al Peterson (Osage) checked muzzleloader deer hunters, worked a litter complaint and assisted on a search warrant. Enforcement action was taken on a deer hunter without a license, hunting over bait and no blaze clothing.

CO Angie Warren (Mahnomen) spent time on small-game and pheasant-hunting activity. Wildlife management areas and waterfowl production areas were patrolled for activity. Angling activity was monitored. Ice conditions continue to vary and caution is advised when venturing out on the ice. Muzzleloader-hunting activity was monitored.

CO Bill Landmark (Pelican Rapids) spent the week checking deer, pheasant and goose hunters in the Pelican Rapids area. Muzzleloader hunters were seeing deer moving and several hunters were observed with nice deer. Most of the smaller area lakes froze on Thanksgiving, but anglers looking to scratch the itch should use extreme caution. Landmark spoke with a few anglers over the weekend. Three inches of ice was common, with areas less than an inch reported. Enforcement action was taken for unplugged shotguns while waterfowl hunting and hunter harassment.

Bemidji #2 – vacant.

District 3 - Fergus Falls area

CO Tricia Plautz (Henning) finalized trespass complaints from the rifle deer season. Plautz checked muzzleloader hunters over the first weekend and monitored area lakes for ice. Some eager ice anglers were having success on an area lake with a good catch of sunfish and crappies. Many lakes are still showing open water in areas. Anglers are encouraged to use extreme caution when venturing out. Plautz responded to a hunter-harassment complaint and assisted CO Landmark in making a harassment case, along with other waterfowl-hunting violations.

CO Andrew Goodman (Elbow Lake) reports checking the first ice anglers of the season testing their luck on thin ice. With warmer weather and wind forecasted, Goodman advises to use extreme caution on area lakes. Additional time was spent checking muzzleloader deer hunters and pheasant hunters. One hunter reported a missing hunting implement forgotten on a WPA (waterfowl production area) near Herman. Anyone with information about the item is asked to contact the Grant County Sheriff’s Office.

CO Shane Osbourne (Evansville) continued working on deer-season investigations and complaints. Some people have started to venture out on the thin ice on small lakes. Waterfowl and pheasant hunters were monitored and checked.

CO Mitch Lawler (Alexandria) worked throughout the week at completing deer-hunting investigations and interviews. Muzzleloader hunters were out and about, which generated some trespassing and late-shooting calls. The last few days of the muskie season brought out the most dedicated anglers, with lots of broken ice around the shores of a few targeted lakes. An extra-line citation was issued to an angler who was using a dead stick with a sucker minnow while also jigging a flashy plastic. Assistance was given to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office with recovering a duck boat that had been abandoned in high winds a few days earlier on Lake Mary.

CO Hannah Wood (Wheaton) fielded questions from people regarding wetlands, hunting public land and general hunting questions.

CO Emily Douvier (Morris) reports working hunting and recreational activity throughout the week. Follow up on various deer cases is being conducted.

CO Dan Baumbarger (Glenwood) reports enforcement efforts for the week were focused on checking deer and pheasant hunters. Additional time was spent checking waterfowl hunters, checking ice conditions on area lakes and following up on injured-animal complaints. Anglers are reminded to use extreme caution when venturing onto area lakes as the ice conditions vary greatly, with much open water still found around the area.

Osakis – vacant.

Fergus Falls – vacant.

District 4 - Walker area

CO Calie Kunst (Remer) spent time checking muzzleloader deer hunters and following up on cases throughout the week. Calls were taken from people asking various hunting questions. She also issued deer-possession permits. Some lakes in the area have ice fishing activity. Kunst reminds anglers to be safe and always be aware of ice conditions, especially this time of the year, prior to going out.

CO Nick Baum (Park Rapids) spent this week patrolling the area for big-game, recreational vehicle and angling activity. He made contact with numerous muzzleloader hunters out in the woods this weekend but encountered nobody who had filled their tag. Baum saw ice anglers on some small lakes in the area; some spots had up to 6 inches of ice. He reminds people that ice conditions can change quickly and it is always smart to have safety equipment when venturing onto early ice. Baum crossed paths with some ATV riders who were taking advantage of the warm weather and final riding opportunities on area forest roads. Baum took enforcement action for a variety of recreational vehicle violations.

CO Adam Seifermann (Staples) reports conducting boat maintenance and paperwork and continuing to follow up on big game investigations. Calls from the public included permits for deer-possession permits and general questions related to hunting/trapping. He reports checking some early ice anglers and wants to remind anglers and those on the ice to be mindful of early ice conditions, which can change daily.

CO Patrick McGowan (Walker) worked waterfowl and big-game hunters throughout the week. Late-season waterfowl hunters were checked, and follow up from the big-game season was completed. Enforcement action was taken for various waterfowl-hunting violations.

CO Mark Mathy (Cass Lake) primarily checked ice anglers. Ice has formed on small lakes with approximately 2 to 4 inches seen. Caution must be taken as the ice is very unpredictable. Larger lakes still have large areas of open water. Mathy also removed an abandoned minnow trap on Leech Lake. Some time was spent following up on existing deer-season cases.

CO Jordan Anderson (Wadena) continued to spend time on big-game violations in the area. Most of the station lakes are frozen over, but ice conditions remain questionable. Enforcement action was taken for taking big game without a license, taking with illegal equipment, failure to register deer as required, youth ATV helmet violations and transportation of loaded firearms.

CO Michael Cross (Lake George) completed training and equipment maintenance. He worked early ice fishing, the late archery deer season, the muzzleloader deer opener and some trappers who have traps out. Cross reminds anglers to use extreme caution on the early ice as conditions vary greatly throughout each lake and from lake to lake.

ATV rec officer – vacant.

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