In the 1920s and 1930s, as settlers abandoned their farms on the barrens, much of the land reverted to Burnett County ownership because of unpaid property taxes. A lot of it then was designated for timber sales under the state forest crop law, a measure aimed at creating a revenue source for the counties. In addition, like many counties, Burnett issued permits to hunters to build seasonal cabins on some parcels.
The concrete-block cabin near the intersection of St. Croix Trail and Gomulak Fire Lane was one such structure. The county issued a permit in 1964 to Lloyd Groteau. He and some hunting friends who referred to their club as the “Hot Shots” built and used the cabin into the 1990s. One of the group, Larry Flynn, took over the permit in 1972.
Early in the 1990s, the state issued a ruling that such permits benefiting private parties should not be allowed on public land that counties had registered under the forest crop law. So the county told permit holders that by 1999 they had to either move their cabins, demolish them or simply walk away, letting ownership revert to the county.
The county took possession and likely would have torn the cabin down. But the state Department of Natural Resources, already managing the wildlife area on land leased from the county, asked to use it for equipment storage and other purposes.
The county, which at the time was leasing the wildlife area to the state, agreed. In 2015, the state and the county engineered a land swap, so the wildlife area and the cabin became state property.
For years, the DNR has made the cabin available to dog trial associations, academic researchers, sharp-tailed grouse groups and the Friends of the Namekagon Barrens Wildlife Area.
In 2012 the DNR started making renovations, getting help from dog trial groups, the Friends and others. The inside was gutted and the outside was painted. Volunteers installed new facia, soffits, shingles and the wood interior. In 2018, the Friends added a picnic shelter next to the cabin, put on a new screen door and installed a woodburning stove.
When you visit the cabin look at the concrete slab at the entrance and you will see “Hot Shots” and a date.
by Dave Peters