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Trophy buck poached, authorities claim

Department of Natural Resources Maj. Rod Smith on Thursday hoists the rack of a buck that allegedly was shot illegally last month in Goodhue County, Minn. Mike Longaecker/Republican Eagle

ST. PAUL -- Troy Reinke may have killed a record-setting buck last month in southeastern Minnesota.

Goodhue County prosecutors on Thursday offered another description of the kill: poaching.

The Cannon Falls man was charged with 13 counts, including gross over-limits of wild animals, after allegedly shooting the deer without a license or tags. The charges carry a maximum penalty more than five years in a jail and a $19,000 fine.

Department of Natural Resources conservation officer Tyler Quandt said the eight-pointer had a gross score of 190 and five-eighths inches. He said the net score was an even 185 inches -- five inches larger than the next-closest eight-pointer on record.

"In the world of antlers, that's tremendous," Quandt said of the difference.

Hunters at first were excited after Internet rumors spread of a world-record buck being taken in Minnesota, Quandt said.

That didn't last long.

"As quickly as they found out it was illegal, their feelings turned to being quite angry," he said Thursday.

Quandt began investigating Reinke following several anonymous tips, some gleaned once tales and photos of the deer hit the Internet.

According to a criminal complaint, Reinke, 32, told DNR investigators on Nov. 5 that he shot three deer in October on private land, including the trophy buck.

But since his license only allowed for him to shoot one deer, authorities said it should have gone toward a doe -- the first deer Reinke said he shot.

The other two -- a smaller eight-pointer and the trophy buck -- were taken illegally, prosecutors allege.

Reinke allegedly admitted to shooting the first two without tagging or registering them. Prosecutors say he waited to fill the tag until after shooting the trophy buck, which Reinke said he killed Oct. 31 in rural Cannon Falls.

The trophy buck was shot at night; two others helped Reinke transport the deer into a truck, the complaint states. DNR Maj. Rod Smith said those people will not face charges.

Internet rumors that Reinke shot the buck with a rifle in bow season were unfounded, Quandt said, but added "that could be possible."

"We're not going to give up on that," he said.

The DNR seized two deer racks, the meat from the three deer and the trophy buck's hide. Reinke's bow also was confiscated.

Smith said the case is disappointing for the agency and for hunters who knew of the deer and had tracked it.

"It's tough when somebody allegedly sneaks in and does it illegally," Smith said at a press conference Thursday.

DNR officials were wowed by the sheer size of the deer.

Lou Cornicelli, big game coordinator for the DNR, called the buck "far more than one in a million." He said he has never seen one that big among the tens of thousands he has eyed at DNR checkpoints.

"The probability of harvesting one this large is infinitesimal," said Cornicelli, who estimated the buck at 5 or 6 years old.

If Reinke is convicted, the state will take possession of the deer. Quandt said it likely will join the DNR's traveling "Wall of Shame" display.

Among the charges are two other gross misdemeanors, both for transporting illegally taken big game.

The doe and the smaller eight-pointer each draw a restitution value of $500; the larger buck will require $1,000 since the state considers it a trophy.

Reinke has numerous convictions on his Minnesota record, including a 2006 guilty plea to fishing with extra lines in Dakota County and a 2003 written warning in Douglas County for no fishing license in possession, Smith said.

His first court appearance is Dec. 10.