37 guns, 28 sets of antlers seized in deer case

Jan. 26, 2015

by Chris Schultz

From the DNR

Charges have been filed against a number of violators following a five-year deer investigation recently completed by conservation officers with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

On Oct. 21, conservation officers executed a search warrant on a residence in Dawson, Minnesota owned by Joshua Liebl, 37; simultaneously, other conservation officers conducted a traffic stop near Dawson on a pickup owned by and being driven by Liebl and executed a second search warrant on the truck.

Officers seized 37 guns and 28 sets of deer antlers from the residence, which included 11 shoulder mounts, most of which were trophy class animals. Also seized were four sets of elk antlers and a set of mule deer antlers. In a freezer, officers also discovered a fully intact piebald deer, which was untagged and had been killed with a high-powered rifle. Piebald deer have a spotting pattern of large white and black patches.

“Since 2004, Liebl has registered four deer,” said Lt. Gary Nordseth, DNR Enforcement district supervisor in the Marshall area.

Seized from the truck was a freshly killed eight-point whitetail buck, which investigators determined had been killed with a high-powered rifle.

At this time, Liebl’s Minnesota hunting privileges are revoked by the Wildlife Violator Compact due to a shining conviction in South Dakota in 2013.

The Wildlife Violator Compact is an agreement between states that recognizes the suspension of hunting, fishing, and trapping licenses in member states. Minnesota and South Dakota are among the 43 states that participate in the compact.

Also seized from the truck was a scoped .243 rifle, a 12 gauge shotgun, numerous rounds of ammunition for each firearm, and a spotlight.

Other evidence collected in the search warrants resulted in charges being filed against:

Kevin Martinson, 58, of Plymouth, for illegally lend/borrow a deer license.

Nate Viesman, 32, of Watson, was charged with illegal party hunting, lend/borrow a deer license, over limit of deer (one of which was a trophy class buck) and two counts of failure to register deer.

Daniel Lien, 33, also of Dawson, a passenger in Liebl’s truck when it was stopped on Oct. 21, has been charged with gross misdemeanor aiding and abetting unlawful transportation of big game.

Liebl has been charged with gross misdemeanor transporting illegally taken big game, gross misdemeanor use of an artificial light to take deer, hunting during prohibited time, gross misdemeanor trespassing, and two counts of failure to register deer.

The investigation also resulted in the seizure of Liebl’s pickup truck, which will be auctioned off at a later date with the proceeds going to the DNR’s Game and Fish Fund.

“This case is the result of numerous Turn In Poachers (TIP) complaints from the public,” said Nordseth.

The public complaints were calls placed to the TIP program, which was formed in September 1981 by a group of concerned citizens and conservationist to initially curb the illegal harvest of game and fish in Minnesota. Calls today also include wetlands, all-terrain vehicle and snowmobile violations.

The deer investigation case was coined “Operation TIP Works.”

Minnesota conservation officers were assisted in the investigation by the Lac Qui Parle Sheriff’s Office, Chippewa County Sheriff’s Office, Montevideo Police Department, Dawson Police Department, and the South Dakota Department of Game and Fish.

“Cases such as these go to show the importance of TIP in protecting and preserving our natural resources,” said Nordseth. “They also show how invaluable TIP, its programs and its volunteers are to our field officers, and the importance of law-abiding outdoorsmen and women willing to make the calls.

“I would bet that you couldn’t find a more dedicated group anywhere in the state,” he said.

The conservation officer encourages anyone who witnesses a fish or wildlife violation to contact the 24-hour, TIP hotline at 800-652-9093. Cell phone users can dial #TIP.

The Lac Qui Parle County Attorney’s Office will be prosecuting the case. Court dates have not been set.

Fishing Klinics for Kids sponsors raffle

Fishing Klinics for Kids is sponsoring an ice fishing raffle and the winner will be drawn at the Maple Lake Ice Fishing Derby on January 31st.

The prizes are: a $500 value Vexilar FL 20, a $300+ Vexilar cold snap jacket and bibs, and a $100 Cabela’s gift certificate.

Tickets are available by phoning 763- 972- 3619, or from LeAnn at Buffalo Super America.

This is a non profit tax donation and the proceeds go to youth fishing events. Between 25,000 and 30,000 kids have attended or participated a FKFK program.

Firearms safety class offered in Waverly

The Waverly Gun Club is offering the Minnesota Firearm Safety training class for anyone at least 11 years old by Jan. 1, 2015.

Class begins Monday, Feb. 2 at 6:30 p.m., and will continue for eight weeks.

Registration for this class will take place Monday Jan. 26 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Waverly Gun Club.

A parent or guardian must attend registration if child is a minor. Proof of birth date is required.

The local fee is $7, and an additional $7.50 Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) fee will be paid directly to the DNR online.

Students who complete all the requirements receive a DNR Firearm Safety Certificate.

For more information or questions, contact Tracey at (612) 910-2198.

First time turkey hunt registration open

From the DNR

Those who want to hunt turkeys for the first time this spring have until Monday, Feb. 23, to apply to hunt under the guidance of experienced National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) volunteers. Applications are available at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/turkey.

This year there are hunts designed for both youth and adult hunters. Youth ages 12 to 17 will hunt Saturday, April 18, and Sunday, April 19. Adults will hunt Saturday, May 16, and Sunday, May 17.

“First-time turkey hunters can go afield and hunt with mentors,” said Mike Kurre, mentoring program coordinator with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “Beginning this year, these mentored hunts are available for any adult first-time turkey hunter, while continuing to be open to youth.”

To be eligible, a youth hunter must be age 12 to 17 on or before Saturday, April 18; have a valid firearms safety certificate; and be accompanied by a parent or guardian. If there are more applications than available mentors, participants will be selected in a random lottery.

“This is the 13th consecutive year the DNR and the NWTF have cooperated to provide opportunities for first-time turkey hunters,” Kurre said. “More than 2,400 youth have been introduced to this unique hunting experience since spring youth turkey hunts began in 2002. Through the program, family members of youth also become involved and help youth continue turkey hunting into the future.”

Participation in the hunts is only restricted by the number volunteers and private lands that are available. Anyone interested in providing quality turkey hunting land for the mentored youth hunts should contact a NWTF chapter online at www.nwtf-mn.org/Home/ChapterListings.

For more the mentored hunts and turkey hunting, see www.mndnr.gov/hunting/turkey.

Register for beginner fly-fishing weekend

From the DNR

A youth paired with an adult can join other youth-adult pairs to learn the basics of fly fishing from experienced mentors over a whole weekend from Friday, May 29, to Sunday, May 31, near Lanesboro, Minnesota. Applications are available in the events calendar at www.mndnr.gov/minnaqua.

“Participants in this fly-fishing weekend learn how to fly fish, and also hear about aquatic habitat and fish management,” said Deb Groebner, a regional specialist with MinnAqua, an educational program of the Department of Natural Resources. “After the weekend, they will be ready to fly fish for a variety of fish species in lakes, ponds and streams.”

To qualify, youth must be 11 to 17 years old as of May 29, and each youth-adult pair must have less than 10 hours of fly-fishing experience between them.

The registration fee is $125 per pair and includes meals, lodging, guiding services, equipment and additional materials. Sponsorships to offset registration fees may be available from angling and conservation organizations. This event is limited to 20 youth-adult pairs.

More information is available at www.mndnr.gov/minnaqua or by contacting Groebner at 507-359-6049 or deborah.groebner@state.mn.us.

Squirrel and rabbit hunting: one way to get into winter woods

From the DNR

Even into the depths of winter after other hunting seasons have passed, there is still time to hunt gray and fox squirrel, cottontail rabbit, jack-rabbit and snowshoe hare in a season that runs until Saturday, Feb. 28.

“Two of the best months for hunting squirrels and rabbits are January and February, for those who want a challenge and the chance at great table fare,” said Mike Kurre, mentoring program coordinator with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “Hunters can get out in the woods and see plenty of action.”

Squirrels can be particularly active this time of year because they are in their breeding season during the winter months, and can often be seen chasing each other. This gives a hunter the chance to bag multiple squirrels.

“Walking through the snowy woods on a sunny day searching for squirrels and rabbits is a fun cure for winter sluggishness, and it keeps your shooting and woods-reading skills sharp,” Kurre said.

Squirrel hunting can be relatively inexpensive, especially for youth. A small game license is not required for hunters under age 16; costs $5 for hunters age 16 and 17; $22 for Minnesota resident hunters age 18 to 64; and $13.50 for hunters age 65 and over. Hunters age 13 and younger are not required to have a Firearms Safety Certificate when they hunt small game while accompanied by a parent or guardian. The daily limit for rabbits is 10, and seven for squirrels. Possession limits are twice the daily limit.

Finding ways to cook squirrel and rabbit isn’t much different than other types of wild game. Here’s a method that Kurre recommends for squirrels, rabbits, venison, duck, pheasant or grouse. It involves soaking the meat to remove the potential for gaminess.

Slow-cooked wild game


Choice of venison, duck, pheasant, grouse, squirrel or rabbit

Choice of salt; 1/2 cup cider vinegar; or 1/2 cup buttermilk


Seasoning of choice


Overnight, soak cleaned and dressed game in the refrigerator in choice of one of the following: salt water, cider vinegar or buttermilk. If using vinegar or buttermilk, use enough water to cover the meat in the mixture.

The next day, make a dry mixture of flour and seasoning of choice. Dredge meat in dry mixture. Brown meat under high heat in a heavy skillet.

In a slow cooker, add a can or two of cream-of-mushroom soup or a dry onion soup mix with a half-cup of water, cook on medium for eight hours and the tender morsels will fall off the bone. Serve with wild rice or oven-browned potatoes.

For more information on small game hunting, see the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/smallgame/index.html.

CO Report

From the DNR

CO Todd VanderWeyst (Paynesville) reports working with neighboring officers with follow up to the big game season. The officer also assisted neighboring officers with aeration inspections and fishing enforcement. Officer fielded calls regarding possible fishing violations.

CO Brian Mies (Annandale) last week checked anglers, checked trappers in Stearns and Wright counties, and checked aeration systems.

CO Paul Kuske (Pierz) would like to remind fish house owners to read the requirements for shelter identification in the regulation booklet. While doing checks on just a few lakes over 40 houses were found to be in violation of the basic rule to have identification on your house when it is unattended. The early bird catches the worm, so does the CO checking fishermen at sunrise and finds a father and juvenile son using 8 lines to take fish. They attempted to hide the extra lines under the floor of the house but that trick has been tried too many times to fool the average CO. Besides a ticket, the father was scolded for involving his kid in illegal activity. CO Kuske sponsored a work crew in his area where officers on ATVs patrolled a number of lakes, taking enforcement action for extra lines, no fishing license, expired ATV registrations and fish house identification.

CO Rick Reller (Buffalo) checked anglers on local lakes and found that most anglers were finding a few walleye during in low light conditions, but most were targeting crappies with fair success. Reller also investigated possible illegal placing of sand blankets on some lake shorelines in the area. Contractors and landowners should be checking with area hydrologist before working within the lake basin. Enforcement action was taken for angling with extra lines and drug possession.

CO Mitch Sladek (Big Lake) worked fishermen on area lakes. He took enforcement action on a number of fish house violations and angling violations. He followed up on a Big Game investigation. He answered an injured swan call in the Monticello area; a rehabilitator was notified. He checked snowmobilers on area lakes.

CO Steve Walter (Waconia) worked the trout opener with CO Le finding lots of anglers outenjoying the warm weather and catching lots of fish. Litter complaints on area lakes left behind by anglers were investigated. Snowmobile and ATV enforcement was worked on lakes and trails.

CO Brent Grewe (Minnetonka) spent the week checking anglers, snowmobilers and investigating complaints. Violations included shelter license and identification issues, no fishing license in possession and possessing a small amount of marijuana/paraphernalia.

CO Chelsie Leuthardt (Prior Lake) spent the week enforcing ice angling and recreational vehicle operations. The fishing pressure has remained steady on many lakes in Scott County but the bite has continued to be slow. She investigated and took enforcement action on abandoned property at local accesses, angling without license in possession and complaints from anglers regarding youth vehicle operations on the frozen waters. Several people had questions regarding ice conditions and while many are driving on the ice, she reminded them all that no ice is safe and to proceed with caution at all times.

CO Vang Lee (ELCOP) worked ATV and snowmobiling activity in Scott and Carver counties. He checked ice fishermen and patrolled state parks trails in the metro area. He also talked to firearms safety instructors in the Hmong community about planning for the summer classes and assisted Officer Le with a deer case in St. Paul.

CO Jeff Denz (Willmar) checked ice anglers and ATV operators. He conducted aeration inspections. Denz also followed up on deer cases.

CO Nicholas Klehr (Litchfield) took the opportunity during the week to work with other officers when they did a check on a local fur buyer in a neighboring station. The rest of the week was busy with ice fishermen. Lots of anglers took advantage of the nice weather over the trout opener and some had luck catching a few trout. Time was also spent checking trappers and some investigations are ongoing.

CO Jen Mueller (Hutchinson) checked anglers and ATVs during week. A couple of ice houses where found to be marked improperly on the outside or were missing shelter licenses. Although the warm weather brought out more anglers, the fish catch in the area was still poor. A report of damage to a public access was also taken.

CO Brett Oberg (Hutchinson) checked area anglers and the remaining snowmobilers that are left in the area. Oberg also checked on a call he received regarding a dead deer. Commercial enforcement was also worked.

CO Thor Nelson (New Ulm) received calls regarding injured wildlife. He spent the majority of the week working angling, snowmobile, ATV and predator hunting enforcement. Warm weather and consistent weather patterns brought increased angling activity and better success.

Star of DNR Eagle cam lays first egg

From the DNR

Tuesday was the first day income tax returns could be filed, and right on cue, Minnesota’s most famous eagles seem to have dropped a little reminder to brighten the perennial chore.

Sometime Jan. 20, the female star of the Minnesota DNR’s eagle camera laid its first egg of the 2015 nesting season. The camera and associated technology are paid for and maintained by the DNR’s Nongame Wildlife Program, largely supported by voluntary contributions people make at tax time.

“I’m not one to ascribe human intentions to animals, but the timing of this first egg sure is an interesting coincidence,” said Erica Hoaglund, DNR nongame wildlife specialist. “It’s a good reminder of a rare opportunity to direct how one’s taxes are spent and help something we all care about.”

This is the third year that the same pair of bald eagles has been brought into thousands of homes and classrooms around the world by a small weatherproof camera mounted above their nest at an undisclosed location in the metro region.

Line 20 of Minnesota’s income tax form gives people an opportunity to donate to the Nongame Wildlife Program, which works to help hundreds of species of Minnesota wildlife thrive through habitat restorations, surveys and monitoring, technical guidance, and outreach and education – critters such as bees, butterflies, songbirds, loons, frogs, turtles and bats, as well as eagles. Donations to the program are matched dollar for dollar by the Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) license plate fund. They’re also tax-deductible.

Bald eagles typically lay one to three eggs, which incubate for about 35 days before hatching. Both male and female eagles, which mate for life, take turns sitting on the eggs to keep them warm. Last year, three eggs hatched after being laid in mid-February, but only two eaglets fledged, or grew up to fly off.

The year before that the pair laid three eggs around Jan. 1, and all of them froze. The female eagle has been identified by a leg band as having been rehabilitated at the University of Minnesota Raptor Center, then released back into the wild in 2010.

“We’re lucky to live in a place that has such awesome natural features and outdoor recreational opportunities,” Hoaglund said. “We’re hoping people will get sufficiently excited watching these eagles to get out to a park and experience nature first-hand.”

In 2014, nearly half a million people from all 50 states and 155 countries tuned in to the DNR’s eaglecam to watch the family saga of America’s iconic raptor unfold in real time.

In addition to live video on DNR’s website, information on the eagles’ activities will be regularly posted on the Nongame Wildlife Program’s Facebook page, and people can sign up for email or Twitter updates. Follow the action at: www.webcams.dnr.state.mn.us/eagle/.