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Northland woman accused of illegally shooting two trophy buck

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A Two Harbors woman has been charged with taking two deer while hunting over bait and hunting without a valid license.

The deer, both mature bucks with large antlers, had been seen frequently this fall near Lakeview National Golf Course in Two Harbors by city residents and hunters, a Department of Natural Resources conservation officer said.

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Valery Vawn Wright, 49, of Two Harbors is charged in state district court in Lake County with misdemeanors for hunting deer over a baited area on Nov. 5 and Nov. 12 during Minnesota's firearms deer season. She also is charged with misdemeanors for hunting without a valid deer license and for having deer over her limit.

She's charged with gross misdemeanors for transporting an illegally taken animal and for taking or possessing wild animals with a restitution value of more than $1,000.

"The charges on the first deer are being disputed," Wright said in a telephone interview Monday. "I'm talking to a lawyer about this. I had no knowledge that everything (bait) had to be raked up."

According to the complaint, the charges stem from incidents on Nov. 5 and Nov. 12, when Wright was allegedly hunting deer with a firearm just outside of Two Harbors. Nov. 5 was opening day of Minnesota's firearms deer season.

Department of Natural Resources conservation officers Dan Thomasen and Matt Miller responded Nov. 12 when a call came to the Lake County Sheriff's office about someone possibly shooting within city limits in the area of the golf course, according to the complaint.

They followed a path into the woods and found Wright, wearing camouflage clothing, hunting with a firearm on property just outside the city, according to the complaint. Officer Miller found carrots scattered on the ground along the path approximately 20 yards in front of the stand, the complaint said. A small amount of grain also was visible in the grass, according to the complaint.

Wright told the officers that she had just shot a "nice buck," according to the complaint. The buck she shot was about 5 to 10 yards away from the carrots and grain, the complaint stated.

Minnesota law prohibits deer hunters from using bait while hunting.

Wright admitted she was the one who shot the buck that morning, and that she had brought the carrots with her and dumped them on the ground in front of her deer stand, the complaint alleges. She also admitted coming to the same clearing 11 or 12 days before deer season "with a bag of No. 14 horse feed, a mix of grains and minerals, and spread it all over the area in order to 'attract deer,' " the complaint stated.

"Officer Miller spotted a smear of dried blood in the grass," the complaint alleges. "The defendant stated that the blood was from dragging out the first buck she had shot on Nov. 5."

Thomasen said that, although Wright possessed a firearms hunting license, she had used it Nov. 5 to tag her first buck. When she shot the second buck on Nov. 12, she could have done so legally only if she had been party hunting and another member of her party was in the field with her at the time. That situation also resulted in the misdemeanor over-limit charge, Thomasen said.

The two bucks had been frequently observed in the area near the golf course, Thomasen said.

"With the city bow hunt in Two Harbors, there's been a lot of interest in trying to harvest those deer," he said. "Everyone was eyeing those bucks."

A photo of a woman with a large buck has been posted to www.northlandoutdoors.com) with a caption that reads: "Val Wright of Two Harbors shot this 10 point buck on opening day south of Silver Bay that dressed out at 199 pounds."

Under Minnesota law, deer are assigned a restitution value of $500. Deer with large antlers are assigned higher restitution value.

The buck allegedly taken by Wright on Nov. 12 had an antler measurement of 138 based on the Boone and Crockett scoring system, according to the complaint. That put its restitution value at $1,000. Together, the restitution value of the two deer that Wright allegedly shot is $1,500, resulting in the gross misdemeanor/gross over limit charge, Thomasen said.

Wright is scheduled to appear in state district court in Lake County on Dec. 12. Maximum penalty for each gross misdemeanor charge is one year incarceration and/or a $3,000 fine. Maximum penalty for each misdemeanor charge is 90 days incarceration and/or a $1,000 fine.

Wright's hunting rifle was confiscated, Thomasen said.

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