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Reported on:
Tue, 09/02/2014 - 9:53pm

Deer hunting tragedy has hunters talking about trespassing, Hmong

The talk among deer hunters this year has been centered on a subject other than the deer they shot.

Hunters have a lot of opinions about the hunting accident in northern Wisconsin on November 21 in which a hunter killed six hunters.

Chai Vang, a Hmong man from St. Paul, has been charged with those killings in Sawyer County. He apparently was on private property in another hunterís deer stand.

In the ensuing confrontation, he allegedly shot and killed the other hunters, although there are two different versions of how that happened and who shot first.

Gary Solie, owner of Solie Services in Spring Grove, has heard stories about the Hmong background, such as how they grew up and what their food sources were. But he said there are two sides to any story, and he didnít want to make any judgments. He prefers to let the court system figure it out.

"It's scary that something like this can happen," he said.

More and more wooded acreage is going to hunters for their own recreational use, Solie feels. "So that trespassing and these issues become a little bit more enforced," he said. "Landowners are watching over their land and making sure that people are preserving their no trespassing."

Respecting property rights and asking permission to hunt is the key issue for all the hunters, Solie feels.

Jason Wiebke, the manager at Wiebke Fur in Eitzen, said on November 26 that a lot of hunters are talking about the Wisconsin shooting. ìI donít think itís keeping people from hunting," he said. "They talk about it, what a tragedy it is."

Wiebke has also heard about incidents where people have had to chase Hmong people from their property and told them they were not hunting on state land. "Nobody obviously has had any shots fired over the situations," Wiebke said.

Stories like that are not hard to find, although hunters are not always willing to state their opinions with a newspaper reporter.

Bob Veghlan, owner of Tri State Bait in La Crescent, has heard one main theme from his customers regarding Hmong sportsmen. "ìMost of the people say they would like to see them obey our laws," Veghlan said. He added two other concerns from his customers: Hmong should speak English, and they should not trespass.

"Somebody had some issues"

Scott Fritz, a Minnesota DNR conservation officer from La Crescent, said the Wisconsin shooting was not a racial issue. He equated it to an act of violence like a school or postal worker shooting.

"I just don't think it has anything to do with the Hmong," he said. "I think it has to do with an individual that has some serious problems. People in our society, they go off. It's just terrible."

Fritz gave some general advice about dealing with trespassers, regardless of race.

"People should approach trespassers in a polite manner, ask who they are and if they have permission," Fritz said. "If a hunter shows signs of not cooperating with you, I would make a call to the sheriff's office and get the sheriff or game warden involved. Weíll meet you on location."

The majority of people who may be trespassing are going to be apologetic, Fritz said, and 99 percent of them leave when asked. "In light of the tragedy, I don't see that changes how we approach people."

Landowners need to make sure that all of their non-agricultural land is legally posted, Fritz said. Signs should be placed on all four corners, and on all access points. Names and telephone number should be on the signs.

If a landowner is having problems, Fritz likes to go out with him or her to see where the land is posted and where boundaries are.

A call from someone saying "I heard shots from the woods" isn't very helpful, he said.

Southeastern Minnesota has a high number of people from throughout the state and from other states using its state land, Fritz added, and deer season complaints run the gamut of types of people involved.

He asked hunters not to stereotype people based on what happened in Wisconsin.

"Somebody had some issues that became a terrible tragedy for everybody involved," he reiterated.

The DNR has Asian officers in the Twin Cities area that have been working with Hmong sportsmen for about five years, and are making good progress, Fritz said.

Fritz said that there is somewhat of a problem with Hmong hunters trespassing during the small game season. He has been working with individual landowners on that. "We've had some success," he said.

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