Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Iowa Rep. Steve King took a lesson from former Vice President Dick Cheney while shooting pheasants Saturday: Don't accidentally shoot your hunting buddy in the face.
Cruz said he shared "about a dozen" Cheney jokes with King on opening day of pheasant season Saturday in King's homestate. "Look, it happens," said Cruz. NBC News followed the two Republican lawmakers on their expedition, and according to King, the hazards of catching a stray bullet from a hunting buddy is "just a part of it, and risk is a factor."
In 2006, Cheney became the butt of all hunting jokes after he accidentally shot Harry Whittington, a Republican lawyer, while catching quail in Texas.
"That doesn't bother me a bit, the way I understood it, he was standing in the wrong place," he said of Cheney's infamous incident.
Cruz kept the jokes rolling while speaking at King's Defenders of Freedom rally later that afternoon.
"What a lot of people don't know about that tragic shooting event is that in the two weeks that followed, there were over 200 calls to Texas parks and wildlife asking how much for a license to shoot a Republican lawyer," he said.
The hunt in Iowa, a key state for the Republican presidential primaries, capped Cruz's third trip to the state in three months. Texas Gov. Rick Perry made a similar pheasant hunt trip in 2011, just before the Republican opened a failed bid for the party's presidential nomination. According to reports, Cruz called the parallels to Perry's former political ambitions as a "dangerous comparison."
The night before, Cruz railed against the party establishment at Iowa's Reagan Dinner GOP fundraising event, and pushed for a new tide in the Tea Party movement. “I’m convinced we’re facing a new paradigm in politics,” he said at the event, “a paradigm that is the rise of the grassroots.”
Cruz became the ire of more moderate factions of the GOP in recent weeks after he staged a failed movement against President Obama's signature health care law. The stunt resulted in a 16-day government shutdown and plunging approval ratings for the party, while Obamacare remained largely intact.
While on the hung, King, who was a stalwart in Cruz's anti-Obamacare efforts, joked about being polarizing figures in the shutdown drama.
"There are a lot of people who would like to shoot me and you, I've noticed," King said to Cruz. "That would be a fundraiser to end them all, wouldn't it?"