DNR auction of confiscated guns, bows and more: Three-year buildup means sizable inventory, crowds, funding for programs (video)

The Minnesota DNR auction of confiscated items drew a big crowd Saturday outside Zimmerman, Minn. (Brian Peterson photo)

ZIMMERMAN — It was three years in the making.

Three years worth of confiscated firearms and the like, a reflection of three years of hunting-, trapping- and fishing-related wrongdoings across Minnesota.

That would explain the huge inventory and, in turn, possible record crowds at the Minnesota DNR auction on Saturday near Zimmerman.

While the DNR doesn’t keep attendance numbers, in an email to Outdoor News prior to the auction, it said attendance at past auctions, also held here, has been as high as an estimated 1,200-1,500. But this year, three years after the last such auction, the DNR estimated attendance at 3,500. Vehicles lined both sides of the highway that runs past the auction site just outside Zimmerman in central Minnesota, and for quite a ways in both directions, and attendees surrounded the auction stage en masse, dozens deep in places.

But if you were looking for a deal on, say, a deer-hunting rifle, this wasn’t the place to get it. It wasn’t unusual for “used” rifles to go for upwards of $2,000 here. As many Outdoor News Facebook followers noted over the weekend, what these items were fetching was ridiculous. This was most blatant with the guns — you could probably buy the same gun new for less than what some of these firearms were going for at the auction.

But this isn’t your typical auction.

No, many of the attendees were here to buy back what was once theirs — items confiscated by the DNR for various wrongdoings over the last three years. By the looks of the inventory, most of those were hunting no-no’s — 387 firearms and about 100 bows and crossbows were among the 750 or so items on the auction block. Besides weapons, also in the mix were tree stands, fishing rods and reels, tip-ups, traps, trail cameras, spotlights, scopes and spears. But guns were the big deal here, and some of those rifles looked like they might have been around for a while — maybe handed down from generation to generation. Family heirlooms even.

So maybe you can look at this as an additional fine for those who bought back those confiscated items. And that might be good on a couple of fronts.

First, maybe poachers who got busted and got their guns, etc., confiscated learned a costly lesson. Or maybe not — perhaps paying thousands and thousands of dollars won’t deter some. It would be interesting to see how many of those who buy back their confiscated guns and other items get busted again. But I would think that number is small.

And second, revenue from the auction goes to the Game and Fish Fund, which benefits DNR wildlife, fish and law enforcement programs. This year, the auction brought in $272,934, the DNR said.

As that funding hasn’t been available since 2014, the last time the auction was held, it should bolster efforts that, like many DNR programs, are in need of bolstering.

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