Deer hunters crossing river raise questions about legality and logistics

Hunting party ran afoul of firearm transportation laws and avoided other trouble by not getting a deer.




2 minute read

White-tailed deer, Polk County, Wis. (Duane Mortensen/iNaturalist)

During last week’s firearm deer hunting season in Wisconsin, some Minnesota Conservation Officers encountered a hunting party that provided a teachable moment about hunting along the St. Croix. While hunting is allowed within the public lands of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, there are also some unique challenges in complying with regulations.

According to the officers, “Hunters were checked coming from across the St. Croix River returning from their hunt on the Wisconsin side of the river. Enforcement action was taken for transporting a loaded firearm. Hunters were reminded of laws regarding transporting harvested deer across state lines.”

These adventurous hunters had launched a boat on the Minnesota side, crossed to Wisconsin and hunted (unsuccessfully), and then returned by their boat to Minnesota. That’s where Conservation Officers encountered them. The hunters were cited for one issue, and warned about another.

First, when the hunters returned to Minnesota by boat, they also brought a gun back that still had ammunition in its magazine. Because their boat was motorized, it is considered a motor vehicle. According to the Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations, the only way to transport a firearm in a motor vehicle is unloaded and in a case, or unloaded in the closed trunk of the vehicle. Because boats count, the hunters were cited for this violation.

Second, the hunters could also have been ticketed if they shot a deer on the Wisconsin side and brought it back by boat to Minnesota. The regulations state: “Carcasses of any deer, elk, or moose species obtained anywhere outside of Minnesota cannot be brought into the state.” Exceptions include quarters or other portions of meat without the spinal column or head attached, meat that has been processed and packaged, hides and teeth, antlers and skull plates with antlers attached (no brain tissue), and taxidermy mounts.

The prohibition on transporting the spinal column or brain tissue is intended to prevent the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease.

The hunters didn’t get a deer in Wisconsin, but had probably planned to bring the deer back with them in their boat if they were successful. The Conservation Officers discussed this aspect of the regulations with them but no violation occurred and thus no citation was issued.

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2 responses to “Deer hunters crossing river raise questions about legality and logistics”

  1. T C Avatar
    T C

    It’s a good thing deer can’t cross state lines alive. They might spread something like irony.

  2. Troy Howard Avatar
    Troy Howard

    Taken from the MN hunting regulations – “Under the following circumstances, a person may transport unloaded, uncased firearms (excluding pistols) in a motor vehicle, including ATV’s: 1. While hunting on private or public land or while traveling to or from a site the person intends to hunt or trap or has lawfully hunted that day”. Many hunters drive with uncased guns while hunting or traveling to and from a hunting location; there is no stipulation as to where the firearm has to be transported while doing so, only that it be unloaded.



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Deer hunters crossing river raise questions about legality and logistics