DEER TRAILS 6: Aggressive bucks may lock antlers, die

Sometimes deer kill other deer, even themselves, fighting to be dominant, or when a buck enters another buck’s home territory.
Because white-tailed deer antlers grow in many sizes and shapes, they can become entangled, or locked, with another deer’s antlers or some object.
During the breeding season, commonly called the “rut”, bucks that belong to the same group seldom fight because they have associated with one another much of the year and dominance has probably been established. But when unacquainted bucks encounter an another buck’s range, signs of aggression may develop and head-to-head fights often materialize.
Antler entanglement is common to the point that locked antlers may not part during normal stances. Apparently that happened when two bucks were seen fighting in Iowa County. Several days later the two deer were noticed along a town road. The two bucks antlers were locked. A guess is that the dead buck’s neck was broken while fighting.
A farmer across the road noticed the fuss and called for information on who might be able to part the live buck from his now dead combatant.
Michael Burns, the Lafayette/Iowa county Wisconsin DNR field warden, was 30 minutes away. During the wait, a group of neighbors were contemplating an attempt to free the deer. However, cooler heads prevailed and the group waited for the warden.
Burns assessed the dead deer, asked who the landowner was, and whether anyone wanted the dead deer should he be able to separate them. There were no takers. However, in the end another farmer took the deer to be placed for scavengers to eat, including golden and bald eagles, coyotes, bobcats and smaller mammals. Birds from nuthatches to hawks would likely visit, too.
Burns retrieved a rifle from his squad and placed the barrel end a few inches from the dead buck’s left antler base and fired, breaking the antler an inch above the skull.  The live buck was unharmed.
After a few shakes, the live buck was loose from his combatant, although seemed unsatisfied that the dead buck had given up.  For five minutes the live buck continued to fight with the body, mostly with his antlers poking the deer’s neck and shoulders.
After a time the smaller, live buck ran up a hill into the woods.
The deer were too close to the road (closer than 50 feet) for a licensed hunter to make a legal shot on the live deer.

Jerry Davis writes daily Deer Trails 11 times during the nine-day, gun deer season. This is the sixth installment. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 608-924-1112