MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Windy weather meant limited success for many of Minnesota’s deer hunters on the opening weekend of the state’s firearms deer season.
Conservation officers across the state reported that the gusts of up to 30 mph to 40 mph discouraged deer from moving, meaning fewer opportunities for the hundreds of thousands of hunters who took to the forests and fields of rural Minnesota on Saturday and Sunday. Success rates appeared to be at least a bit higher in the southeast, however.
And don’t tell 12-year-old Keegan Heikes of Hermantown that hunting was tough Saturday. He dropped a 10-point buck that weighed an even 200 pounds field-dressed. He told the Duluth News Tribune it was hard waiting the standard half-hour before checking to see if it was dead, but it was, just 10 yards from where he had shot it.
“I don’t even know if he knows how rare this is to get one like this,” said his father, Joel Heikes.
At least three hunters died on the opening weekend, while several were injured in accidents.
Arthur Joseph Knafla, 84, of Maple Grove, died Saturday morning when his clothing caught fire as he was trying to light a propane heater in his deer stand southeast of Hibbing. He fell from the stand when his clothing began burning, the St. Louis County sheriff’s office said.
A 51-year-old Sartell man, whose name was not immediately released, was found dead Sunday under his stand near Outing. Cass County Sheriff Tom Burch said it appeared he fell, causing his gun to go off and fatally wounding him. Autopsy results were pending.
The death near Saum on Saturday of Gene A. Berthiaume, 72, of St. Paul, was determined Monday to be a result of natural causes, not injuries from falling from his deer stand as initially suspected, Beltrami County Sheriff Phil Hodapp said.
Several other hunters were injured in falls from tree stands, one seriously enough to require evacuation by helicopter, while a few were injured by firearms, the Department of Natural Resources and local authorities reported.
Conservation officer Jim Robinson of Slayton reported that one hunter had his thumb shot off by a member of another party when a deer ran between the two groups, while another hunter was injured when the barrel on his shotgun exploded because the muzzle was plugged.
A Sartell man accidentally shot himself in the leg as he was getting situated in his tree stand near Lengby on Saturday, the Polk County sheriff’s office said. A Clear Lake man was accidentally shot in the arm Saturday by a fellow hunter near Clear Lake, the Sherburne County sheriff’s office reported.
In other incidents, a bullet smashed through the rear window of a pickup truck in Mahnomen County but did not injure the driver Saturday evening. Investigators interviewed several people in the area and confiscated a rifle to see if it fired the bullet that was lodged in the rear door. Moorhead police were investigating a report of deer hunting in city limits. A bullet struck a house near Willow River. One hunter in that area thought his rifle was unloaded when he tried to put it in its case, but the gun discharged and the bullet destroyed the radiator of a vehicle parked nearby, the DNR said.
Conservation officers across the state cited numerous people for illegal baiting. Officers responded to a call from a Park Rapids area nursing home of a hunter who had set up a blind near a feeder outside a picture window at the care center where residents would watch deer come and eat. The hunter was escorted off the property by two wardens and two deputies, the DNR said.
At least one deer fought back. One hunter near Fergus Falls reported being rammed and knocked to the ground by a buck that was missing half its antlers, the DNR said. The hunter was not hurt, but the deer was shot by another member of his hunting party.
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