It’s commonplace in Borderland to see antlers hanging in people’s homes and hunting shacks.
Most of the time, these antlers are shed naturally by deer and found by people. Other times, the antlers belong to a buck legally harvested during Minnesota’s whitetail deer hunting season.
But an International Falls man who pleaded guilty to a state game violation wants people to know they can’t take the antlers off a road-killed deer without a permit.
Cody Christensen, 42, was sentenced July 21 for gross misdemeanor game and fish violation — take, possess big game out of season.
He was sentenced to one year jail and $3,700 fine and fees. The jail time and all but $800 were stayed on court conditions and he was placed on three years probation. He may not hunt large or small game in Minnesota for five years.
Christensen says he didn’t know he needed to first obtain a permit from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources before taking the antlers from a dead deer.
In Borderland, many people decorate homes and shacks with antlers and deer skulls, he said. He said many may come from road-killed deer.
“A lot of people do that, when they see a buck on the side of the highway,” he said.
Christensen said he now fully understands the law, but isn’t sure the majority of people in Borderland know about that part of the law.
“If you found it, I guess you’re supposed to contact the DNR..., like if you’re cutting the tail off a raccoon on the road,” he said. “It seems like a simple little thing and it’s a gross misdemeanor.”
He said he understands the reason behind the law.
“If it’s a shed, then fine, but if it has skull or antlers, people could hunt deer out of season and shoot a deer and cut the skull and antlers off, and say they weren’t hunting” he said. “I understand exactly why, but a lot of people don’t realize. It’s kind of severe, and if they realize you did not shoot it out of season, they don’t give you the $3,000 and one year jail.”
Minnesota Conservation Officer Darrin Kittelson said state law requires some type of permit or license in the taking of any wild animal that specifies a person can legally posses the animal. During hunting seasons, animals can be taken legally with the correct license during the correct season.
“When it comes to road-kill, you need a permit from the DNR to take any type of wild animal killed,” he said. “That applies to any part of the animal.”
He said road-kill permits for deer may be obtained also from the local sheriff and police departments, as well as the Minnesota State Patrol. But permits for any other animals protected by state law, including raccoon, must come from the DNR, and may be obtained from he or another conservation officer.
Kittelson said the permit requirement protects the state’s wildlife from being taken illegally.
“There needs to be checks and balances out there,” he said.
For instance, he said, the law is there to protect a buck from being shot illegally out of season for its antlers or its meat.
“They need a piece of paper or permit to show they can legally have it,” he said.
This part of the law is not new and has been in place for a very long time, he said.
“And, it’s not only animals — you can’t go on state property and dig out trees or plants,” he said.
Kittelson said shed antlers are handled differently, because it can easily be determined they have fallen off a deer naturally.
In Christensen’s case, the antlers he took from a road-killed buck were still in velvet.
Kittelson said the law is simple: “To take road-kill deer or raccoon — something protected by state statute, they need permit for it. It’s nothing more than that.”