Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?

An organization is spreading misinformation about wolves in northern Minnesota following a disappointing deer hunting season last fall.
Image by Noah Liebl
Hunters for Hunters was founded last October with the express goal of removing wolves from the endangered species list, holding events across the state attended by politicians.

Last January, the University of Minnesota’s Voyageurs Wolf Project posted to its Facebook about the amount of tagged wolves illegally killed in the Greater Voyageurs Ecosystem, located near the Canadian border in Minnesota.

According to the post, 37% of wolves with collars or ear tags killed by people are poached. If wolves killed for preying on livestock are removed that number inflates to 54%.

“Poaching is a common and persistent source of death for wolves in our area but this is not unique to our area whatsoever,” the post reads. “In many areas where wolves and people co-occur, poaching is a common source of mortality for wolves.”

On Feb. 10, 2022, the gray wolf in Minnesota became a federally protected species again after a district court reversed a Fish and Wildlife Service decision removing the species from the endangered and threatened species list in November 2020. 

The gray wolf has since been listed as a threatened species, which means it may become an endangered species in the future throughout its habitat range. Under this status, they can only be killed in defense of a human life.

Panic over an allegedly out-of-control wolf population threatening deer populations, ranchers and pet owners in northern Minnesota has created an opening for groups to gather political momentum in the state. Hunters for Hunters (H4H) is one such organization, which is spreading misinformation about wolves in Minnesota.

On its website, H4H says it is a watchdog group protecting the rights of hunters and landowners in Minnesota. The group wants wolves to be removed from the federal endangered species list, claiming the population in Minnesota has gotten out of control. Members of other wildlife organizations see it as a political movement pushing to spread panic about wolves in the state.

H4H was founded October 2023 by friends Dillan Porter and Kyle Weber to give better representation to hunters, landowners and deer enthusiasts in Minnesota, according to Steve Porter, Dillan Porter’s father and an H4H board member. Dillan Porter and Weber serve on the H4H Board of Directors as the chair and secretary respectively.

“We knew that hunters were going to come out of the woods absolutely upset at the deer versus wolf numbers, and the problems they were seeing,” Steve Porter said.

According to its website, the group’s goal is to “fully realize” its constitutional right to hunt and fish in Minnesota and secure its outdoor heritage and traditions through policy and wildlife management.

In the group’s Facebook group, ‘Wolf Watch — Hunters for Hunters,’ illegally killing wolves is openly discussed in the comments.

“It is very sad but trying to get wolves delisted and a season put on is a waste of time,” Garrett Miller wrote. “If the people want results you take matters into your own hands and keep your mouth shut!”

“What is it going to take to get the DNR n government to delist these over populated killers??? Shoot to kill is the immediate resolution,” Dave Theisen wrote. “No time for these politicians to decide. F— ’em.”

Porter said the organization does not endorse people advocating for others to poach wolves.

“We don’t endorse it, we don’t want it,” Porter said. “That’s just frustrated people talking. You know what I mean? They’re just frustrated.”

Despite the group having the ability to remove comments condoning illegal activity, these comments remain. 

Steve Porter and Hunters for Hunters

Jared Mazurek, the executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association (MDHA), said he has never seen Dillan Porter speak anywhere.

“It’s always Steve Porter, he’s the face of that organization,” Mazurek said. “He’s an interesting guy, you know?”

Steve Porter owns a deer farm business in northwestern Minnesota called Steve Porter’s Trophy Whitetails, where inquiring customers can pay to hunt farmed deer or purchase fresh doe urine, according to the business’s website. Designed by Dillan Porter, the website has a tab titled ‘Know Your Rights’, which currently leads to a blank webpage.

“Steve Porter is a joke,” web user Eric Halverson wrote on a Google review for Porter’s farm. “He routinely encourages bullying and inconveniencing DNR agents on his Facebook account. He has been caught violating deer transport laws related to [chronic wasting disease]. Take away his license to operate already.”

According to Mazurek, Steve Porter used to travel around the state with some of his deer and host educational programs at schools and other venues.

In 2019, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issued an emergency rule banning the transportation of farmed whitetail deer within the state for 30 days to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD). Two more emergency rules followed this, one in 2020 and another in 2021.

According to the Minnesota DNR, CWD is a fatal disease occurring in the brains of deer, elk, moose, reindeer and caribou. There are no vaccines or treatments available to treat CWD.

In an open letter to the Minnesota House of Representatives from March 15, 2022, Steve Porter said the government was lying when it said the transportation restrictions were intended to curtail the spread of CWD. Instead, Rep. Rick Hansen and the DNR were doing whatever they could to destroy his business.

“My stress is through the roof,” Steve Porter said. “When should I start shooting my animals and dragging them into a pit??? Rick Hansen, will you come and assist in shooting and burying my clean healthy animals?”

In the letter, Steve Porter said his business incurred $179,000 in financial damages from the three DNR movement bans. Steve Porter’s Trophy Whitetails is still operating.

“He likes to say that his deer farm is out of business,” Mazurek said. “But no, he can continue to run that until he decides to retire or passes it on.”

Steve Porter serves as the secretary on the Board of Directors for the Minnesota Deer Farmers Association (MDFA), a networking organization for deer farmers in Minnesota.

On Dec. 28, 2023, MDFA filed a lawsuit against the State of Minnesota for allegedly infringing on their constitutional rights by passing legislation in 2022 prohibiting new deer farms from opening and restricting the transfer of captive deer to immediate family members.

To raise money for the lawsuit, MDFA held a fundraiser selling straws of deer semen partially supplied by Steve Porter’s farm for $500 each, or the choice of any three for $1,000, according to a flier for the event. Silver tablets stamped with the Ten Commandments were also sold for $50 each, which came with a complimentary copy of Porter’s DVD, titled “Whitetail Deer — Evidence of God’s Creation.”

In a video posted to the Steve Porter’s Trophy Whitetail Facebook page on March 11, Steve Porter discussed the lawsuit and accused MDHA and the DNR of working together to run deer farmers out of business.

“Jared and Bob Meier conspired and said, ‘Let’s take these guys down,’” Porter said. “‘Let’s pass legislation. Let’s trample their constitutional rights.’ So they did it, okay?”

According to Mazurek, MDHA took a hard stance against the transport of captive deer and supported the prevention of the further spread of CWD.

“He really took offense to that,” Mazurek said. “He’s been staunchly against us ever since. And he’s, in my opinion, doing everything he can to shut us down.”

Steve Porter specifically targets Mazurek in many of his social media posts.

“Does Steve Porter even care about wolves? Well, if you look back a little bit further on his Facebook prior to Hunters for Hunters starting, he had posts on there that were like, ‘Did wolves ruin your deer hunt? I still have hunts available on my private deer farm,’” Mazurek said. “So, for Steve, wolves are good for business.”

In a post Steve Porter made to his Facebook page on Nov. 20, 2023, he said his farm was sold out of deer hunts for the remainder of the year and 95% booked for 2024.

Wolves and deer

In a video Steve Porter posted to his Facebook page on March 22, he focuses on a bill currently in the Minnesota Legislature that would require the DNR commissioner to hold an annual wolf hunting season if wolves are removed from the endangered species list. The season and any other requirements would follow the goals set out by the DNR’s wolf management plan.

The wolf management plan was finalized in 2022 and contains research on the current wolf population, goals and strategies for the state’s approach to stewardship and guidelines for how the wolf population would be managed if they are delisted.

One of the plan’s objectives is to maintain a population of 2,200 to 3,000 distributed across most of its current range. If the population exceeds 3,000 across multiple consecutive years, and negative impacts attributable to wolves also increase, there will be an opportunity for public input on wolf management.

In the video, Steve Porter refers to this objective and claims the bill is effectively a 10-year ban on wolf hunting in Minnesota.

According to Dan Stark, the project manager for Minnesota’s wolf plan, the plan has a number of population thresholds, each with their own management options. The minimum wolf population that would have the option of a hunting season is 1,600.

The wolf plan states additional management options would be considered to address damage or other public concerns if the population exceeds 3,000, but it does not discuss prohibiting hunting seasons if the population is fewer than 3,000.

Stark said Minnesota has recognized wolf populations have recovered within the state. However, the federal listing of the gray wolf is the result of its status in other states and the administration of the Endangered Species Act.

“It hasn’t necessarily been about where wolves have been recovered, but where they haven’t recovered, and what threats there may be outside of where those core populations are in making decisions about delisting the entire species,” Stark said.

According to Stark, as the wolf population increased in Minnesota after being initially listed as endangered in 1974, there were enough conflicts that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service changed the wolves’ listing to threatened. This allowed for more flexible management and gave the government the ability to kill wolves if they prey on pets or livestock.

Peggy Callahan, the founder and executive director of the Wildlife Science Center, a nonprofit conservation organization, said the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services often kills wolves in response to the exact thing people are upset about, such as livestock loss and wolves approaching people more frequently. 

According to the USDA Wildlife Service’s 2023 Wolf Damage report, Wildlife Services killed 248 wolves in response to verified wolf-caused damage, which is higher than the previous 10-year average of 179 wolves.

“Wildlife Service takes a lot of wolves and they do it in response to just about everything imaginable,” Callahan said. “They’ve taken an awful lot of wolves this year.”

Porter questioned the state’s approach to the Endangered Species Act, which he said called for a population of roughly 1,200 to 1,400, after which he said the process for delisting the wolves should begin.

“Then Minnesota says, ‘Yeah, we want between 2,200 and 3,000 in Minnesota,’” Steve Porter said. “Why would Minnesota double the amount that the Endangered Species Act calls for?”

Callahan said 2,200 is a minimum number and not a population goal.

“One of the things that I think is very positive about Minnesota is that they have not set a population goal because wolves have followed the deer population forever,” Callahan said.

According to Callahan, the deer harvest in Ontario, Canada, faced a similar decrease last year as in Minnesota. In Ontario, wolves are not protected and can be hunted.

“This is not a wolves and deer issue here,” Callahan said. “This is a winter issue.”

Callahan added the winter of 2022-23 was severe for deer, with deep snow accumulation on the ground harming the population in northern Minnesota.

“Deer are not native to deep snow like that,” Callahan said. “They moved up to the North Shore around 1900 and they’ve struggled.”

Department of Natural Resources

“When history looks back at this, it’s going to be unkind,” Steve Porter said. “It’s going to be known as one of the largest big game management failures ever, and the prize is going to who? The prize is going to Bob Meier with the Minnesota DNR. That’s who’s getting the prize for the biggest failure. And I hope you use that quote in the paper.”

Steve Porter said Bob Meier, the assistant commissioner of the DNR, is responsible for Minnesota’s wolves being listed.

“I think Bob’s been there long enough where he knows everybody,” Steve Porter said. “I think he’s connected with everybody, and so that’s my opinion. I believe Bob’s the one making the decisions.”

Meier, who supervises Fish and Wildlife Services, said the closest his job gets to wolf management is in handing out reports.

“There really is no puppetry to be done,” Meier said. “I mean, if anything, Hunters for Hunters are the puppet masters for the general public, fanning their flames about what is and isn’t true when a lot of the information they share is false.”

Meier said the DNR tries to work with all Minnesotans, and the people involved in H4H are no different than any other stakeholder in the state.

“They have a seat at the table should they want to come sit down,” Meier said. “They have never contacted us. I have never been officially contacted by Hunters for Hunters.”

House pets

One major concern allowing H4H’s influence to spill into residential areas is house pets, specifically dogs. 

In early April, H4H purchased billboard space, pairing a photo of a snarling wolf with that of a dog named Romeo. The billboard, which appeared near Proctor, Minnesota, reads, “Romeo was killed by wolves in his owner’s front yard in January.” 

“[Wolves are] killing dogs left and right in the city of Babbitt,” Steve Porter said. “They’re going into town and stealing the dogs at night because they ran out of deer.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Service’s 2023 Wolf Damage report, 14 dogs were verified to have been killed by wolves between 2019 and 2023, seven of which were killed in 2023. 

“Wolves eat hundreds of pets a yr they also eat deer fawns and moose and calves sheep and lambs they eat everything they can sink there teeth into,” Jack Ryder wrote on the H4H Facebook post announcing the new billboard.

According to Callahan, people need to take responsibility for their dogs regardless of whether they live by a freeway or in wolf country.

“My Jack Russell got picked up by a great horned owl and fortunately she was fatter than the owl suspected,” Callahan said. “It dropped her, but she was badly injured. Now what do I do? Do I shoot every owl I see? At what point here do we acknowledge that we’re living in a state with a complex predator system?”


H4H’s website says it is a lobbying organization, though it has not publicly endorsed a single piece of legislation, according to Mazurek.

“If what they’re trying to project about wanting to protect our deer herd and get a wolf hunt back in the state of Minnesota is true, they’ve never been at the capitol,” Mazurek said. “They weren’t at the DNR roundtable. They’re not meeting with all of these other amazing, true wildlife conservation organizations.”

An amendment to a bill that would enact an immediate wolf season in Minnesota regardless of the animal’s federal protection status was introduced by Minnesota Sen. Nathan Wesenberg on April 11 and lost with a 35-30 vote.

Steve Porter updated his audience on the amendment’s status in the capitol but did not explicitly endorse it.

Wesenberg, a former wildlife biologist for the DNR, has appeared on H4H livestreams and with Porter in the past. During a stream posted to the official H4H Facebook page on Dec. 2, 2023, Wesenberg praised the organization.

“What Steve is doing with Hunters for Hunters is bringing people together and your voice is being heard,” Wesenberg said. “I have people here in central Minnesota asking me about Hunters for Hunters and what they can do, and what he can do is be your voice.”

H4H has held a number of events and listening sessions across the state, including multiple that featured U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber (R) as a guest speaker.

Callahan, who is not opposed to delisting wolves in Minnesota, said Steve Porter and his organization are encouraging a malicious approach to wolves that departs from any kind of scientific approach.

“This is not about predators,” Callahan said. “This is about politics, and somewhere along the way wolves became Democrats. And that’s what they’re going after: the Democrats.”

Meier said the state of the wolf population in Minnesota is about population management and politics do not result in sound natural resource management. 

“The legislature does a lot of great things for the environment,” Meier said. “But managing scientific issues should be left to the biologists.”

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  • Mike K
    Apr 26, 2024 at 11:24 am

    Steve Tajornhon… The deer are outside in the woods and fields from corner to corner in Minnesota. The moose are also outside, but being in the extreme southern edge of their range you can only find them in NE MN right now.

  • Steve Tjornhom
    Apr 25, 2024 at 11:41 am

    Where are the Moose? Where are the Deer? Wolves are double the population intended. I really like to see and hear about Wolves but not at the expense of everything else. I could care less about a guy’s deer farm but when the deer are gone, and Moose are gone the cattle will be next and that will be a huge issue!!