Kirkland resident Dennis Dunn, a longtime acquaintance of the Minnesota dentist accused of killing a beloved lion in Zimbabwe, said trophy hunters like Walter Palmer and himself get “a bum rap in this world.”

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Kirkland resident Dennis Dunn, a longtime acquaintance of the Minnesota dentist accused of poaching a beloved lion in Zimbabwe, said trophy hunters like Walter Palmer and himself get “a bum rap in this world.”

Dunn, the father of King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn and ex-husband of the late U.S. Rep. Jennifer Dunn, met Palmer around 20 years ago through an organization that keeps records on big-game animals killed with a bow and arrow.

Related: Zimbabweans in lion hunt in court; kill was ‘unethical’

Though they only went on one hunt in Mexico together, he said they share a passion for big game and are two of only 24 people who have killed all 29 species classified as big game in North America. The achievement is known as a “Super Slam.”

“’The trophy hunter really should be regarded as the saint amongst hunters,” Dunn said, explaining that trophy hunters only look to hunt the most challenging of the adult male animals which he said are old, near the end of their lives and beyond their prime breeding years.

Though Dunn said he wasn’t aware of the details of Palmer’s killing of the lion named Cecil, he wondered if Palmer’s guides in Zimbabwe baited Cecil from territory illegal to hunt into legal territory without Palmer’s knowledge.

“To the extent that Walt was aware of any legal wrongdoing or even ethical wrongdoing I think is an open question,” he said. He added that bait is used legally to hunt in Africa “all the time,” as well as hunting at night.

Dunn said Palmer was extremely accurate with a sighted bow and arrow, and perhaps didn’t see the tracking collar Cecil wore because he could have shot from as far as 80 yards away.

In an interview with the Star Tribune of Minneapolis, Dunn said Palmer is “a very driven man … He lives an intense, fast-paced life, and hunting is a great passion.

A sign is posted on the door at River Bluff Dental on Tuesday in Bloomington, Minn. River Bluff Dental owner Dr. Walter Palmer has gotten criticism over the sport killing of a beloved lion in Zimbabwe named “Cecil.”  (Renee Jones Schneider / Minneapolis Star Tribune)
A sign is posted on the door at River Bluff Dental on Tuesday in Bloomington, Minn. River Bluff Dental owner Dr. Walter Palmer has gotten criticism over the sport killing of a beloved lion in Zimbabwe named “Cecil.” (Renee Jones Schneider / Minneapolis Star Tribune)

“He’s taken all five of the dangerous Big Five of African game, including a rhinoceros, and that’s one of the most dangerous animals to take with a bow and arrow.”

Dunn said he’s been hunting since age 10 and has killed more than 100 animals with a bow and arrow. He said he killed a record-size grizzly bear in 2004 from 8 yards out.

As to Palmer’s ethical standard as a hunter: “I have never seen anything in his behavior or heard any stories before today that made me question that,” Dunn said.