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Shine a light on deer poaching this season

Thinking about poaching a deer? Think again. Your chances of getting caught and paying a hefty fine are greater than you think. No matter how badly you want that big buck, don't do it.

Here's added incentive: To discourage hunters from illegally taking deer, conservation officers with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are setting up decoys to catch the over-eager hunter in the act.

"It's the firearm deer season and some hunters don't want to return home empty handed," said Colonel Jim Konrad, DNR enforcement division director. "Although the vast majority of hunters abide by the rules, there are some who resort to poaching to fill their tag."

The DNR needs some help, however. With only 140 field conservation officers across the state, it said more eyes and ears from law-abiding outdoorsmen and women, as well as the general public, are welcomed.

"If people see suspicious activity, such as a vehicle driving slowly at night shining a spotlight into a forest or field, they should contact a conservation officer or other law enforcement officer with as much detail as possible," Konrad said.

He suggested noting the time the incident occurred, characteristics about the people involved, the type of vehicle used, the license plate number, and direction they were heading.

Quick notification is also critical.

"People should contact us as soon as possible," Konrad said. "The longer someone waits to report the activity, the less chance we have of stopping it. Almost everyone has cell phones, so we hope they put them to good use."

The Turn In Poachers (TIP) program offers rewards to citizens who report poachers or other resources violations. People can report a violation by calling 1-800-652-9093, or #TIP on most cell phones.

"The public -- hunters and nonhunters -- must get involved," Konrad said. "We all have a vested interest in the wildlife in this state. If we are going to protect wildlife, we must depend on the public to help us to do that."

Finding a Minnesota conservation officer is just a click away at Click on the map and a balloon will pop up that shows the officer phone number and state patrol dispatch number.

Shining deer is a problem that needs more attention. It happens at night when poachers use a bright light to "freeze" deer and then shoot them. These lawbreakers can be difficult to catch, since they typically operate on lightly traveled rural roads and in remote areas.

Instances of hunters illegally taking deer are more common than one would think. Hundreds of deer are killed this way across the state every year.

Don't let them get away with it.

Penalties for poaching and shining can include fines of several thousand dollars, loss of vehicles, and/or equipment involved in the crime and the loss of hunting privileges.

Anyone who observes shining, poaching or someone committing another natural resource violation should call the TIP hotline. All calls are confidential and the caller may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000 if an arrest is made. -- Alexandria Echo Press