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