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Republican Senator Ted Cruz on Cheney shooting incident: 'Look, it happens'

Texas Senator Ted Cruz tells a joke about the incident in which Dick Cheney shot a friend while hunting, during his keynote address at a Defenders of Freedom event in Le Mars, Iowa.

AKRON, Iowa -- Republicans have become accustomed to defending former Vice President Dick Cheney's political record, but Texas firebrand Sen. Ted Cruz is now defending his reputation as a hunter.

Cruz joined Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, for a pheasant hunt in western Iowa on Saturday, and the two discussed the now infamous 2006 incident when Cheney accidentally shot a friend while quail hunting in Texas.

David Bohrer / AP file

This Nov. 5, 2002 photo provided by the White House on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2006, shows Vice President Dick Cheney hunting quail in Gettysburg, S.D.

"Look, it happens," said Cruz.

King said the incident "doesn't bother me a bit. The way I understood it, he was standing in the wrong place."

Cheney wounded campaign contributor Harry Whittington, who Cruz said was a friend. The Tea Party Republican said Whittington still has pellets in his shoulder that set off airport metal detectors.

Cruz and King spent hours Saturday trudging through brush in western Iowa with a group of hunters in the hopes of bagging a few pheasants. King has hosted past Republican presidential hopefuls Rick Santorum and Rick Perry for similar hunting outings in the first-in-the-nation voting state.

King also jokingly acknowledged Cruz's status as a political target since the prominent role the senator played in orchestrating the 16-day government shutdown. At a speech in front of Iowa Republicans on Friday, Cruz made the case that the battle against President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act helped to shed light on the problems with the legislation and will aid the GOP in the 2014 midterm elections.

"There are a lot of people who would like to shoot me and you, I've noticed," King said to Cruz before they took off."That would be a fundraiser to end them all, wouldn't it?"

Nati Harnik / AP

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, stands in front of pheasants that were shot during a hunt hosted by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, in Akron, Iowa.