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Prosecutor: Shooting of rogue deer 'justifiable'

Mark Christianson is still black and blue nearly a week after he was attacked by an eight point whitetail buck in his driveway at his rural Fertile, Minn. farm. Herla dphoto by Eric Hylden.

FERTILE, Minn. -- Mark Christianson, the Fertile area farmer who trailed by points in a boxing match with a whitetail deer until he shot the buck, won't be charged for shooting a deer out of season.

A conservation officer with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources who investigated the incident sent a report, standard procedure, to the county attorney for review.

"The deer attacked him," Norman County Attorney James Brue said, chuckling. "It was a pretty justifiable shooting.

"No, Mr. Christianson will not be charged."

Laboratory results showed there was nothing physically or neurologically wrong with the eight-point buck that attacked Christianson Aug. 2 outside his farm home southeast of Fertile.

Christianson was out helping a neighbor farm Tuesday, his wife said.

"Well, I'm glad he won't be sitting in the Norman County jail," Judy Christianson said. "But it never occurred to him that he might be charged for that."

The deer encounter made news around the country and beyond earlier this month.

"I was going out to finish spraying the soybeans," Christianson, 66, told the Herald in a story published Aug. 9. "I stepped out a side door, and we saw each other, and he started coming closer.

"He was pummeling me, standing on his hind legs and hitting me with the front ones. He hammered me good, rapid fire, and I thought, 'Well, this isn't good.' I wasn't winning, so I grabbed him and tackled him and we both went down on the ground."

A photograph of Christianson that ran with the story showed him with bruised arms and black eyes. He said he'd seen the deer lurking nearby on previous occasions.

Judy Christianson said an announcer from a Davenport, Iowa, radio station asked to talk with her on air after hearing Mark's story.

"He asked me if the divorce papers had been filed yet," suggesting that she -- not a deer -- had roughed him up, she said.

"I told him, 'I've got no marks on me. I didn't do it.' "

Mark has told the story many times, she said, but appears to be wearying of it. "He's normally pretty quiet," she said. "He's not a very, what would you say, outward person at all. A little boy, about 10 years old, from a neighboring farm, said to him, 'Would you tell me the story?' Mark said, 'Go read the newspaper.'

"The black and blue is gone pretty much now," Judy said. "But last Friday he mowed the lawn, and on Saturday he said his right shoulder and arm were sore. He's still sore from fighting that deer."

The Christiansons had speculated that something must have been wrong with the animal, which seemed almost to be stalking them over several days.

But a report from the University of Minnesota's Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in St. Paul indicates the buck had no sign of rabies, encephalitis or any other diseases that might have explained its erratic behavior.

"It looks pretty healthy overall," said Dr. Erika Butler, wildlife veterinarian for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. "There is no pathological reason it would have done what it did. We're kind of confused, essentially, about this one."

Tests showed minor mononuclear encephalitis, Butler said, but the infection could have been incidental to brainworm, a common parasite in white-tailed deer that doesn't affect the animals.

Butler said the carcass was taken to the lab in St. Paul, where she picked up the skull Aug. 6. She said she's never heard of a healthy wild deer attacking a person in such a manner.

There were no tags or other signs to indicate the buck would have been a domestic deer.

"Especially when it's not even in rut yet," she said. "Maybe if there were other things going on, but not in a wild deer in the middle of the summer.

"It was a nice-looking buck."