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MN: Hunter fined $12k

April 9, 2010

Washington County deer hunting case snares employer, employee Bucks allegedly shot in license scheme

A Marine on St. Croix man faces $12,000 in fines and possible jail time for alleged deer-hunting and license violations dating to 2007 during his pursuit of trophy deer.

Daniel Erwin Chase, 64, faces eight counts of illegal deer hunting in incidents where he shot trophy bucks on his property using licenses purchased by his employee, according to a criminal complaint filed last month in Washington County District Court.

The employee, Steven James Meister, 58, of Stillwater, faces five counts of license and big-game violations, according to a separate criminal complaint.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources investigation began last year when a conservation officer received a tip that Chase was shooting two bucks a season while using a friend's license.

Investigators discovered the friend was Meister, who told them Chase had shot bucks in the falls of 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 using Meister's rifle and muzzleloader deer licenses.

When questioned, Meister told investigators "he had not actually hunted in 10 years,'' yet Meister had registered the deer in his name.

The hunting occurred on Chase's property on 154th Street in a rural area south of Marine on St. Croix.

DNR officers seized six mounted trophy bucks and a muzzleloader rifle from Chase's home. All the mounts had antler scores ranging from 124 to 157 on the Boone and Crockett scale, which is considered trophy size. Chase refused to tell investigators which he had shot with Meister's license and which with his own.

Meister told investigators that Chase would use Meister's license to shoot his first buck, "then uses his own license to possibly take a bigger buck," and that the practice had been going on for "six or seven years."

Chase told investigators he had killed deer with a muzzleloader rifle every year for the past "three or four years," but records show he had not bought a muzzleloader license in 2008 and 2009, according to the complaint.

"It's cheating on multiple levels," said DNR conservation officer Alex Gutierrez, who led the investigation.

Chase is charged with failure to register big game, two counts of illegal lending or borrowing a license, two counts of unlawful party hunting, hunting deer without a license, illegally taking big game and illegally possessing big game.

Meister is charged with two counts of lending or borrowing a license, two counts of transporting illegal big game and illegally possessing big game.

Gutierrez said the statute of limitations prohibits the DNR from charging the men with violations earlier than 2007. In addition to other penalties, both men could lose their hunting licenses for up to three years if convicted, Gutierrez said.

Chase did not return phone calls, and attempts to reach Meister by phone were unsuccessful. A 2000 Pioneer Press story quoted Chase as the owner of Marine Supply Inc., a company that sold luxury boats and large powerboats.

Their first court appearance is May 5 in Washington County District Court.

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