BEMIDJI -- Bagging a buck in Bemidji is nothing new.
But in the latest round of thefts and vandalism of downtown Bemidji sculptures, some would-be hunters have taken off with the deer statue that sits outside Bemidji Woolen Mills.
Bill Batchelder, owner of Bemidji Woolen Mills and the statue, dubbed Busby Big Buck, said the thieves took the metal sculpture sometime Thursday or Friday.
He's offering a $500 reward for the return of the statue, which he said is valued at about $10,000.
Batchelder said the nearly life-size buck statue, made for the Bemidji Sculpture Walk by longtime veterinarian Dr. James Busby, was in its place Thursday afternoon. He said he remembers the time because he was meeting with some visiting business people and the buck is always a point of conversation.
However, the next time he took notice of Busby, the buck was gone. That was after Friday's night's Bemidji Axemen game, he said. A friend of Batchelder lives near the store, and Batchelder said he was giving that friend a ride home when he noticed Busby was missing from atop his pedestal at the corner of Third Street Northwest and Irvine Avenue. He called police.
Batchelder said he figures the heist must have occurred sometime Thursday evening and before 6 a.m. Friday when heavy snow started to fall. He said there was a lot of fresh snow on the Busby-less pedestal, snow that wouldn't have been there if Busby had been standing watch.
And this was not a simple topple-and-grab job, he said. Busby was bolted to the pedestal and the thieves took the time to remove them.
"This wasn't just somebody hitting it to break it loose, this thing is actually bolted down," he said. "Someone had to think about this, it's deliberate."
Batchelder said anyone with information about Busby's whereabouts can call him at (218) 368-3406.
The downtown art sculptures are often the target of vandalism, and sometimes outright thievery. The last reported incident occurred when a Beaver statue was damaged after it was removed from its base in November. That came a few weeks after the upper torso of a statue titled "Soulful Jazz" was ripped off the sculpture.