By John Lauritsen


MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Last weekend was opening weekend for deer rifle hunters in Minnesota — and it was a hunt to remember for a Twin Cities family.

Nineteen-year-old Pierce Pennaz has Down syndrome, and thanks to a new law he was able to go hunting with his dad and bag his first buck in Jackson County.

“We got up Saturday morning, early, 5 a.m. We got Pierce roused out of bed, got him dressed for the weather,” said Steve Pennaz.

Despite being under the weather, Pierce and his dad waited for hours before a six-point buck happened by.

“I had no idea where it came from. All I know is I said, ‘Pierce, there’s a buck,’” said Steve. “He had about a 120-yard shot, which is a long shot for a 20-gauge, and he made a perfect hit on the deer.”

Pierce Pennaz with his buck (credit: Pennaz Family)

It was a magical moment dad and son weren’t able to share a year ago. Pierce was part of an apprentice program where you can hunt with a parent or guardian for two years. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources told Steve that to be able to hunt after that, his son needed to pass a firearms safety course. So Steve asked for help, hoping for a way Pierce could continue to hunt with him.

“I wanted to extend the apprentice period so that when we hunt, he’s right here,” said Steve.

Thanks to Rep. Jim Nash of Waconia and other lawmakers, a bill extending the apprentice program became law last spring — and that had Pierce looking forward to fall.

“Pierce was screaming, ‘I got him! I got him! I did it! I did it!’” said Steve.

It wasn’t a trophy buck, but for father and son, it was still a treasure. The video of Pierce’s first deer spread across Facebook.

“I woke up Sunday morning and I admit I was crying,” said Steve. “I just said what an amazing experience, and what an amazing young man.”

John Lauritsen

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