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Steve Karnowski, Associated Press Writer, Published November 11 2009

Pawlenty shot buck, but couldn’t find it

MINNEAPOLIS – Gov. Tim Pawlenty shot a buck during the Governor’s Deer Opener last weekend, but he and his hunting companions were unable to find the wounded animal.

Pawlenty hunted near Thief River Falls in northwestern Minnesota on Saturday morning on land owned by former state Rep. Wally Sparby. The buck ran off into the brush after the governor shot it.

“We gave her the old college try two days in a row,” said Mark Johnson, executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association and an organizer of Pawlenty’s annual outing.

Johnson said the governor fired from over 200 yards away, which Johnson said is a “fairly long shot” but still a reasonable distance. He said Pawlenty and his brother, Dan, then “went by the book,” following the normal protocol of waiting at least 30 minutes to let the deer settle down and expire peacefully. Then they found blood on the ground showing where the deer had been hit, and reported it to their crew.

Most guides to hunting ethics say hunters should make every effort to find wounded animals.

Pawlenty was “pretty concerned,” Johnson said. But the governor was unable to keep up the search because he had to leave for Iowa. Pawlenty, a potential GOP presidential candidate, spoke at a Republican Party fundraiser there Saturday night.

Johnson said the rest of the hunting party – 10 people with close to 200 years of cumulative hunting experience among them – went looking for the governor’s deer Saturday afternoon. They were able to follow the blood track for quite a while, but Johnson said the signs are the deer never did lie down, indicating it wasn’t that seriously hurt.

“He kept moving, kept working his territory, and the blood trail petered out to virtually nothing,” Johnson said. “Deer are a pretty amazing animal. They can stand a lot, but especially bucks. They can shrug a flesh wound off and keep going.”

Sparby said they went through the woods seven times on Saturday and went back on Sunday morning, but couldn’t find the deer.

“It’s heavy brush and a lot of tall grass. ... It’s so difficult, really thick and cumbersome. It’s good deer habitat, though,” Sparby said.

Johnson said the hunters saw no signs that the wolves heard howling in the area on Friday night or scavengers such as ravens had found the deer, either.

Sparby said they’ll keep an eye out for the wounded deer when they hunt in the area again this coming weekend. If the deer is still alive and they bag it, Sparby said, they’ll donate the meat to food shelves and save the rack for Pawlenty.