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This undated aerial image shows a deer stand built on county forest land with se

St. Louis County: Deer stand 'mansions' on public land

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DULUTH, Minn. (AP) — Some hunters in St. Louis County are upgrading their deer stands, trading the traditional nailed-together hunks of wood for what one official calls "mansions" in trees on public property.

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County officials are seeing stands — platforms perched in trees to help hunters more easily spot deer — with stairways, decks, shingled roofs, commercial windows, insulation, propane heaters, carpeting, lounge chairs, tables and even the occasional generator, the Duluth News Tribune reported Sunday (http://bit.ly/Lzie7J ).

Some hunters have even planted crops near their stands in hopes of attracting deer, said St. Louis County Land Commissioner Bob Krepps. He said hunters have also cut down trees near their stand to improve sight lines.

"We're getting overbuilt," Krepps said. "We're seeing mansions out there — basically hunting shacks on stilts."

Private landowners can do what they want, Krepps said, but tax-forfeited land makes up nearly 1 million acres of county forest, and is supposedly open to all hunters. Hunters who customize stands in these areas are inappropriately claiming public land as their own, he said.

"A lot of these cross the line of what's appropriate," Krepps said. "If I'm out walking and come across one of these buildings on posts, am I going to feel welcome to hunt there? Probably not. And if I do, there's likely to be a fight. That shouldn't happen on land that belongs to everyone."

One deer stand was 18 feet wide and 20 feet long; county officials said it was more like a cabin. And officials have even found some stands on public property with locks on the doors.

Traditional wooden stands are often abandoned to rot in the woods. That gets more complicated with new, sometimes elaborately manufactured stands that include plastic, metal and shingles, which aren't biodegradable "and really leave a mess in the woods," said Jason Meyer, a forest manager for the county.

Accompanying the growth of the extravagant stands is the increasing prevalence of massive "shooting lanes," where hunters cut trees and brush to better see deer. In just one area of county land, foresters estimated that hunters cleaned more than six acres of forest combined for a total of 47 shooting lanes.

"They are taking public land out of timber production and it's adding up across the county," said Mark Kailanen, a county forester. "The real impact of this may not be realized until 40 or 50 or 60 years from now, when those trees would have been harvested."

Krepps has notified the St. Louis County Board of his concerns, and he plans to propose new land regulations that limit the dimensions of deer stands and ban timber cutting.

County Commissioner Peg Sweeney said such changes are needed.

"This has gone too far," she said, though several of her colleagues said they'd prefer better education for hunters rather than new regulations.

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Information from: Duluth News Tribune, http://www.duluthsuperior.com

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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