A Rushford teen is suspected of killing the penned-in animal.
The 19-year-old couldn't look more proud in the photo, wearing a
broad smile as he squats next to the trophy buck he took with a bow and
But it may end up he's no trophy hunter at all, just a thief.
The antlers, hide and meat were recovered later by authorities and
returned to the deer's owner.
Investigators are now building a possible felony case against the
teen from nearby Rushford, according to the Houston County Sheriff's
The deer's owner, who doesn't want to be identified until charges are
filed, is angry. "He came in and took something from me that I worked
very hard to do," said the owner, who raises deer with his brother. "He
doesn't realize what he's done."
The 3 1/2-year-old buck, worth many thousands of dollars, is the
product of "many years of intensive and selective breeding," said the
owner, who has raised deer for the past 15 years. "It's a lot of time
The buck was in a pen with more than a dozen other deer when the
thief shot him in the dead of night last week. With blood staining snow
on the ground and a hole snipped in the fence, the farm owners could
easily see one of their prize deer had been killed.
"Whoever did this was definitely looking for a trophy," the owner
Fourteen other deer escaped through the hole in the fence that night,
but 12 returned for food. Two bucks are still missing.
"One is a younger brother ... and genetically better," the owner
"We're making every effort to get these deer back. I even went up in
a helicopter yesterday."
The dead and missing deer will take a large chunk out of the family's
business. "Our future is in jeopardy," the owner said. "And I don't have
money to replace the deer."
Scott Bestul, who co-writes the Whitetail 365 blog for Field and
Stream magazine, lives about 20 miles from the deer farm and said he was
"pretty disappointed" when he learned about the theft. Days before he
learned the deer had been poached, someone had sent him a photo of the
19-year-old showing off his trophy.
"Make no mistake, it's just monstrous big," Bestul said. "In
Minnesota, you might get one or two that large. They're very hard to
come by in the wild."
But for a farm-raised deer, the size is not unusual, he said. "This
kid made a big, dumb mistake that will affect the rest of his life. He's
probably in a lot of trouble because he stole private property."
Mark Johnson, executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters
Association, said the case had little to do with hunting.
"This obviously was livestock, a penned deer, and it would be akin to
horse thievery,'' Johnson said. "This was not hunting, it was
For the deer's owner, it has shattered his family's sense of
security. "You hear a noise outside, you hear something different, you
wake up and come flying out of bed to see what will happen next," he
Hunters and nonhunters often visit the farm. "They enjoy coming out
to look at the antlers, to see the babies in the spring," he said. "They
come to see the deer up close rather than hitting the front of their car
when they jump across the road. ... It's really sad this happened."
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