Deer antlers have a dual purpose in nature. The most obvious role that plugins play is that of display or aesthetics. A well-developed and highly symmetrical set of horns signals the genetic superiority of a large bull or bull, which can secure the attention of deer in estrus or harems of cows in heat. But the sharp ornaments serve an equally important function during the brutal battles for dominance that take place each fall between the male members of the deer family. In territorial periods, bucks beat their antlers together as they jockey for position.
When equal unicorns fight, things can go sideways in a hurry. Sometimes, the horns become intertwined and hopelessly locked in place. When this happens, it often spells death for one or both of the animals involved. However, in other cases, there are survivors. A buck has been seen the following season rolling around with the antlers and skull of a former foe still attached to his rack. Or maybe an intrepid third party steps in with a power tool and frees two bucks trapped in an otherwise fatal nuisance.
These types of scenarios come up time and time again, year after year, and we’ve been reporting on them for more than a decade. Here are five of the most compelling closed-money stories to ever come across the F&S news desk.
1. Closed Bucks drown in a Minnesota lake
If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that locked-up money and large amounts of water don’t mix. Such was the case earlier this year when several beautiful Minnesota tails were found floating near a lakeside homeowner’s backyard. According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the trophy-class deer were engaged in an early hunting session when they locked antlers and somehow ended up in the lake. With their racks permanently tangled, the bucks were unable to make it out of the lake alive. They drowned together and were discovered by the owner of the house the next day.
2. A hunter in Wisconsin frees two bucks trapped with an angle grinder
In December 2021, a Wisconsin bowhunter named Troy Rebarcheck entered the fray of a deadlock battle with an angle grinder in hand. The hunter’s life-saving attempt to free the deer was caught on camera and what followed looked downright dangerous. The bucks didn’t like Rebarcheck’s looks or his nice grinder at all. And they seemed to go into full fight or flight mode as the whirring mill wheel came closer and closer. Eventually, Rebarcheck managed to cut the locked horns and the animals were freed.
3. Maine Hunter Tags Buck 9-Point Locked Up with Dead 10 Pointer
A Maine hunter took a two-for-one earlier this season when he bagged a 9-point buck that closed with a dead 10-pointer. Adam Blanchette didn’t immediately understand how the 10-pointer went down, but with a tag in his pocket, he decided to harvest the survivor — a worthwhile choice given the animal’s unfortunate condition. “I looked at him and I said, ‘I’m sorry,’ and I said it out loud and I shot him,” Blanchet later told Bangor Daily News. “It was bittersweet. It’s almost emotional. You feel bad.”
4. Three dollars are closed and drowned together
We’ve just republished this story in its entirety, but it’s so compelling that it warrants inclusion in this roundup as well. The unlikely scene was discovered by a wood surveyor in Ohio. What he found were three mature whitetail bucks trapped and floating in the shallow end of a small creek. The sight of three dead bucks floating there “like a flower pedal” is, to say the least, stunning. And the question arises: how the hell does something like this happen? In his 2010 deep dive, written shortly after the incident occurred, longtime F&S contributor Steven Hill takes a sharp, focused look at one of the most shockingly closed stories we’ve ever seen.
5. Mule Deer Buck Survives While Enclosed With Dead Deer That Was Wiped Out By Coyotes
When a United States Forest Service worker in northern California spotted a pair of mule deer trapped in the snow, he had no idea that one of the bucks had already met an untimely end. So you can imagine his surprise when he got closer and realized that not only had the larger of the two stags died during the encounter, but its body cavity, ribcage, and hindquarters had been completely dismembered—apparently by a hungry pack of coyotes. What’s even more surprising about the gray scene Adam Segroves encountered on November 19, 2022, is the fact that the resilient opponent of dead deer somehow managed to survive the ordeal unscathed. And then she left after Seagroves cut her antlers off the dead deer with a standard bone saw.