Troy Alan Reinke drew back his bow on Halloween evening, targeting a whitetail buck with 8-point antlers larger than any recorded in history.
Reinke's broadhead flew true, and soon he and two friends were dragging the huge whitetail out of the Goodhue County woods.
But there was a problem. Legally, Reinke could kill and register only one deer, and on previous days he had already killed a doe and smaller buck, neither of which he had registered.
The would-be world-record buck Reinke killed on Halloween was poached, as were the other deer, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, which on Thursday announced a 13-count case against the 32-year-old Cannon Falls man.
The antlers the DNR trotted out at Thursday's news conference were so big that they appeared at first glance to be those of an elk.
"Millions of deer are harvested nationally each year,'' said DNR big-game coordinator Lou Cornicelli. "The probability of harvesting one [with a rack] this big is just infinitesimal. It doesn't exist.''
If convicted, Reinke would be required to pay $2,000 in restitution for the three illegally killed deer, in addition to losing his big-game hunting privileges in Minnesota for three years. Jail time is possible, DNR conservation officer Maj. Rod Smith said.
"We take this very seriously,'' Smith said. "The natural resources of Minnesota belong to all of us.''
Bow or firearm?
DNR conservation officers were tipped off by other hunters that the big buck might have been killed illegally. Reinke subsequently admitted he had killed three deer, each with a bow, according to the DNR. The antlers were confiscated Friday.
Rumors that the trophy buck, which reportedly dressed out at 269 pounds, was killed with a firearm and not a bow are being investigated, Smith said.
The frozen hide of the big buck will be examined when it thaws to determine if gunpowder or other residue is on it.
In addition to the rack and hide, the DNR confiscated meat from all three deer and Reinke's bow.
Reinke has a criminal history in Minnesota for convictions for fifth-degree criminal assault and domestic assault. The DNR also previously cited him for fishing with an extra line, and, separately, issued him a written warning for not carrying a fishing license.
He killed all three deer on privately owned land near the town of White Rock, in Goodhue County, the DNR said. The land was not his own.
Smith said the two friends helped Reinke drag the big deer out of the woods won't be charged.
The rack is nearly perfectly symmetrical, one side to another, one tall tine to another, and has an inside spread of 28 3/8 inches.
"Without looking physically at the lower jaw, it would be difficult to age the deer,'' Cornicelli said. He estimated the animal to be 5 or 6 years old.
Chuck Corcoran, a Hampton taxidermist who processed the deer for Reinke, scored the rack at 192 inches gross and 188 net.
Neither Boone and Crockett, a record-keeping club that registers trophy animals killed by any means, nor Pope and Young, which registers trophy archery kills, categorizes antlers by the number of points alone.
Scores are instead determined by totaling an antler's points, their length, the circumference of the main beams and other measurements. If the antlers displayed Thursday by the DNR score as high in 60 days, after they dry, as Corcoran measured initially, they would appear to be the highest-scoring 8-point rack on record for a whitetail deer killed by archery.
Pope and Young won't register antlers from a deer killed illegally. But Boone and Crockett is more inclusive, and Smith said Thursday that the DNR might in the future attempt to register the antlers in the name of the state, not Reinke.
Staff writer Paul Walsh contributed to this report.