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Zimmerman man admits to illegally taking multiple deer from wildlife refuge east of St. Cloud

Conservation Officer Mitch Sladek is shown here with the mounts and plaques seized in the Zimmerman investigation. They are now included in one of the DNR’s Turn In Poachers (TIP) Wall of Shame displays. Photo by Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

ZIMMERMAN, Minn. -- A Zimmerman man has admitted his guilt  to a 2014 case of illegally taking multiple deer in the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge east of St. Cloud.

The case started last November when Minnesota DNR Conservation Officer Mitch Sladek of Big Lake observed a woman and her daughter bypass a locked gate and enter the refuge pulling a two-wheel deer cart.

“I asked them who shot a deer,” said Sladek. “The woman said her husband, Michael Walz, had shot the deer and they were going to help him bring it out with the cart.”

When asked if it was a buck or a doe, the woman didn’t know. When asked if they bow hunt, she replied, “No.” Sladek checked DNR’s electronic licensing system and saw the woman had registered a number of bucks killed with a bow.

“I then traveled onto the refuge and found the two women and Walz, as well as a freshly killed

6-point buck that was untagged and had been illegally removed from the kill site,” said Sladek.

The officer checked Walz for a valid license, but was told it may “take a minute” since Walz had other licenses in his possession beside his own: his friend’s, his daughter’s and his father’s. Walz then validated and tagged the 6-point buck.

Walz and his wife later admitted to illegal party hunting, illegal transportation and using borrowed tags in an attempt to pass the deer off as legally killed animals. He further admitted that his wife, daughter and father were not with him when he had shot any of the deer.

Sladek travelled to the Walz home where he found six shoulder-mounted deer hanging on a wall, along with seven antlered wall plaques. Walz confessed to killing and transporting 13 deer illegally. Walz said that the deer were taken in the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge or the Sand Dunes State Forest to the south.

All of the mounts, plaques, as well as a pickup truck and a bow were seized as evidence. Walz was charged in Sherburne County Court with two counts of transporting illegally taken big game and two counts of soliciting/borrowing the big game hunting license of another person.

A fine of $3,000 and sentence of one year in jail were stayed and Walz was placed on two years’ probation; however, court costs and fees totaled nearly $3,200. In addition, Walz received 80 hours of community service, cannot enter Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge or Sand Dunes State Forest, cannot hunt big game during a two year probationary period, had his Minnesota big game hunting privileges revoked for three years, and was ordered to write a public apology in Minnesota Outdoor News.

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