Hunting Accident File > Violations

MN: Hunter accused of illegally killing a world-class whitetail deer

January 21, 2010

Goodhue County / Hunter pleads not guilty to three more charges Trophy buck taken out of season 

Troy Alan Reinke, the Cannon Falls man accused of illegally killing a world-class whitetail deer on Halloween night, pleaded not guilty Thursday to three additional counts in the case.

Appearing before Goodhue County District Judge Thomas Bibus, Reinke also asked, through his court-appointed attorney, to have his hunting jacket tested for gunpowder residue to help prove he did not shoot the deer with a firearm.

Bibus agreed to the test, which could be paid for with state money under state guidelines, said Reinke's court-appointed attorney, Tim Dillon. Dillon said Reinke did not have the money to pay for the test.

Bibus set a pretrial hearing for March 18.

Reinke, 32, is charged with 16 counts of illegally taking and possessing whitetail deer last fall, including shooting a small buck and a doe. He possessed an archery license to shoot only one buck or doe.

He is accused of illegally killing and possessing a trophy whitetail buck that had the highest-scoring eight-point antlers ever measured by Pope and Young or Boone and Crockett, two groups that maintain trophy records.

In December, he pleaded not guilty to the original 13 charges.

Prosecutors say Reinke told Department of Natural Resources investigators he shot the small buck and doe in early October with a bow and failed to tag or register them. He claimed to have shot the trophy buck with a bow on Halloween but later changed his story, saying that he found the deer already dead.

Investigators say the deer's hide possessed entry and exit gunshot wounds. They say neighbors living near where Reinke said he found the buck heard a gunshot about 8 p.m. on Halloween.

Assistant county prosecutor David Grove said it might be difficult to prove Reinke shot the deer because there are no witnesses. He dismissed the powder testing on Reinke's jacket as providing proof that he didn't shoot the deer, because the jacket could have been cleaned or may not have been worn on the night of the alleged shooting.

Reinke was charged Wednesday with an additional gross misdemeanor count of "taking and possessing" a big-game animal out of season. The firearms hunting season was closed when Reinke allegedly killed the deer. The other two new charges are unlawful possession of a wild animal.

"It doesn't matter whether he shot the deer or not," Grove said. "The key is it was unlawful for him to possess the deer (out of season)."

Grove said investigators recently subpoenaed Reinke's cell phone records to find supporting evidence that Reinke shot the deer, but no new information came from the records.

Grove said if a jury convicts Reinke of the most serious charges, he could serve a year in jail. His hunting privileges could also be revoked for three years, and he could be fined thousands of dollars.

In addition, another year of jail could be added because Reinke violated terms of his probation, Grove said.

Reinke declined to talk to reporters after the hearing.

The case has attracted national attention because of the size of the trophy buck's antlers.

Avid hunters Vern Bissonette and his son, Ray, traveled from Bloomington on Thursday morning to witness the hearing. They said they have no stake in the case, other than wanting to make sure justice is served.

"This isn't about meat," said Ray, 49, a bridge construction supervisor. "It's about ethics and sport. If he's found guilty, I think his hunting privileges should be taken away."

Among the misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor charges against Reinke are illegally transporting big game, gross over-limits of wild animals, failure to validate a deer license, failure to register a deer, possessing untagged big game animals, taking deer over the limit and taking deer without a license. There are multiple counts of each charge to take all three deer into account.

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