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Deb Luzinski of Woodbury went bowhunting Friday intending to shoot a doe to help control the deer population at Bald Eagle-Otter Lakes Regional Park in Ramsey County.
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Instead, the veteran hunter bagged one of the biggest bucks ever taken by a Minnesota woman.
With antler points splaying in all directions, Luzinski's 24-point buck should rank among the top three nontypical — or nonsymmetrical — white-tailed deer ever killed with a bow and arrow, according to the Minnesota Record Book, the state's official record-keeping book.
Only men hold the positions above her, so Luzinski, a 38-year-old mother of two, would hold the top nontypical deer killed by a female bowhunter in Minnesota.
"I'm not a trophy hunter, so to speak; I firmly believe in hunting as a part of deer management,'' she said. "My intent that night was to shoot a doe, but this buck was unfathomable."
Hers is not a "Cinderella story,'' she said. The professional landscaper and self-described born-again Christian has been archery hunting for 15 years, killing 64 does and five bucks in that time.
Hunting is "a part of my being,'' she said, "a part of who I am."
She is also a member of the Metro Bowhunters Resource Base, a nonprofit organization that helps urban communities cull problem deer herds. This year, she and her husband, Mark, are coordinating the archery hunt at Bald Eagle-Otter Lakes Regional Park, which lies between Otter Lake and Bald Eagle Lake in White Bear Township.
MBRB hunters, who are required to pass proficiency tests, are participating in four three-day archery hunts on the Otter Lake side of the park this year. It is closed to others during controlled hunts.
One of her jobs was to coordinate the 16 hunters in the park Friday, and after the others had picked their hunting locations and put up their stands, "I picked the last spot next to a cattail swamp that nobody wanted,'' she said. "I hadn't set foot in the spot until Friday."
Luzinski set up her stand at noon, returning to it around 3:50 p.m. About 40 minutes later, she heard "cattails rustling" and spotted a 10-point buck approaching. Wearing a scent-controlling carbon-fiber suit and using a call that simulates the sound of a doe bleating, she lured the 10-pointer to within 50 yards.
Then, the bigger buck made his entrance.
"I heard crashing, and I said, 'Oh, my Lord, what is that?' The other buck was absolutely huge. He had cattails hanging all over his antlers.
"I thought they were going to go at it,'' Luzinski said about watching the two bucks approach each other, "but the 10-pointer just dropped his head and backed up."
When the 10-pointer began "blowing and wheezing,'' Luzinski said, she thought it would scare the bigger deer off. But the 10-pointer walked away, and she was able lure the 24-pointer within 17 yards using her doe-bleating call.
Her aim was true. She and friend Ron Cormier later recovered the buck 65 yards away.
The 24-pointer was 3½ years old and weighed about 190 pounds — a relatively small and young buck, considering his antler size, Luzinski said.
The buck's antlers have been measured using the Boone and Crockett scoring method, which determines a deer's antler size in inches, based on number of points, thickness and width of the antlers, with deductions for imperfections. Luzinski's buck nets a score of 220 inches, which is a "green" score before a mandatory 60-day drying period.
The state's biggest nontypical whitetail killed by archery measures 2234/8, taken by Glen Bullick in 1989. The No. 2 archery deer measures 2225/8 and No. 3 measures 2175/8, so it is possible Luzinski's deer would claim that spot, according to the Minnesota Record Book.
Among combined firearms and archery kills, her buck would rank in the top 40.
Luzinski was swamped with curiosity seekers when she registered the deer at Blue Ribbon Bait in Oakdale. Since then, her cell phone has been ringing nonstop; with the firearms deer season opening Saturday, her buck is the dream deer of any hunter in the state.
"It's just surreal,'' she said.
Chris Niskanen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-228-5524.