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With handwritten plea, 84-year-old hunter charms lawmakers

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Behind a bill to add a scant three lines to Minnesota's hunting laws is a story of an aging man.

George Krog served in the military, first in Cuba and then in the Philippines. He made a career out of working with steel, retired, paid his taxes and bought a deer hunting license every year. Now 84, Krog is afraid he won't get a shot at a buck again.

So in a handwritten letter to one of the most powerful people in Minnesota politics, he made his pitch for some help for himself and others in his shoes.

"In my younger days I could sit almost all day long, now I can sit maybe two hours," Krog wrote. "The windfalls are higher and the hills are steeper."

The Legislature gets consumed by big numbers — a $40 billion budget, millions of dollars in new spending and tax cuts for hundreds of thousands of residents — but the story of one man in the twilight of his life who just wants to bag another deer has resonated with lawmakers.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk is pushing to allow residents 84 and older to take a doe without a special permit — just as Krog asked. Though the change would open doors for other elderly hunters too, Bakk and others are giddy about helping one 84-year-old man from Two Harbors.

"Maybe 200 people take advantage of this," said Rep. David Dill, a Crane Lake Democrat pushing the bill in the House on Krog's behalf. "Maybe 2,000, maybe it's 5,000 — I really don't care. This is something that every legislator in their term ... has the opportunity to do: to help somebody."

Krog didn't know his request had caught on until he was reached by phone this week at his home.

"Well that's good. I'm 84," he said with a laugh after Bakk's bill was read to him.

Krog has grabbed his rifle again and again every year he wasn't serving in the military. But bucks aren't coming around Two Harbors anymore, he said. He hasn't shot one in years, and didn't even get one in his scope this fall — only does.

After a heart attack two years ago, Krog scaled back his hunting. But he's not ready to pack it in yet, so he wrote a letter.

"I can still do it," he said proudly. "There's going to come a time when I can't. I just don't want to sit in this rocking chair and think, 'Why didn't I do it when I could?'"

Krog's request for a doe permit was turned away last fall — the Department of Natural Resources limits how many doe permits it hands out in order to protect the deer population. After asking "the head honchos" in Two Harbors if they could help, he wrote a letter to his state senator: Bakk, a Cook Democrat.

Bakk and Dill are committed to giving Krog (and the 2,200-some registered hunters 84 and older like him, according to the DNR) a chance at getting another deer.

Asked whether the DNR may raise a stink about depleting the doe population, Bakk gave a wry smile and a two-word reply: "Doesn't matter."

Paul Telander from the DNR said the department hasn't yet taken a position on the bill.

Krog's efforts already paid a small dividend this fall. After getting wind of Krog's request for a special doe permit, the local game warden showed up at his door with a buck for him to skin. Big one, Krog said. Sixteen-pointer.

But if Bakk's bill passes, he's set on bringing his own deer home next year.

"On opening morning, I'll have a deer," he said. "I know exactly where they are and where they go.

I've learned that from the old-timers. Now I'm the old timer."