‘Dances With Wolves: Kevin Costner Pulled Real Dead Deer Out of River to Ensure Authenticity

by Katie Maloney

Many fans think that Kevin Costner is a huge westerns fan. However, that’s not actually the case. He only likes authentic western movies.

Actor Kevin Costner has starred in several projects depicting life in the west including Yellowstone, Open Range, Silverado, and Dances With Wolves. So, most people just assume that Costner is a big fan of westerns. But that’s not true. During a 2019 interview, Costner revealed that he only really liked 5-10 western movies. He said that many westerns depict cowboys as illiterate. He also said that the costumes and settings for many of those movies are inauthentic. So, when it came time to film Dances With Wolves, Costner wasn’t settling for anything short of absolute authenticity. He was so dedicated to the scenes that he wouldn’t let the crew use fake deer during the scene when he pulls dead deer out of the pond by his home.

Costner knew that wet deceased deer would be extremely heavy. So, he wanted to use real deer to keep the scene authentic. The crew collected deer killed on the highway for the scene. Kevin Coster also wanted to stay true to his character. So, he did all of his own riding in the movie. This included riding bareback and shooting his gun without holding the reins, during the bison hunt scene.

Kevin Costner pulls a dead deer out of a pond in Dances With Wolves.

Kevin Costner Didn’t Want to Harm Any Animals While Filming Dances With Wolves

Dances With Wolves depicted the raw realities of life in the west during the 1860s. Naturally, these realities included lots of hunting to survive. One of the most memorable scenes in the film features Kevin Costner and a group of Sioux Indians hunting bison. The scene took eight days to film and used a helicopter, 10 pick-up trucks, 24 bareback riders, 150 extras, 20 wranglers, 25 recreated bison, and 7 cameras. You read that correctly – Costner and the crew didn’t want to hurt any animals so they spent $250,000 on 25 animatronic bison. Anytime you see a bison shot during the scene, it was an animatronic bison. Of course, the crew filmed hundreds of stampeding bison in their natural habitat. However, there were only two real-life bison who got close-ups during the scene.

One of the bison was named Mammoth and was owned by rock singer Neil Young. The other’s name was Cody and was the mascot of a South Dakota meat company. During an interview in 1991, Dances With Wolves producer Jim Wilson talked about the domesticated bison.

“Cody was obsessed with Oreo cookies, said Wilson. ‘You could be 100 yards away, pull out an Oreo, and he’d take off like a bullet straight for you.”

In fact, that’s exactly what they did for the scene that featured an angry bison bearing down on a fallen boy during the hunt. To capture an authentic reaction from Cody during one of the hunt’s most terrifying scenes, the crew set up the camera behind a pile of Oreos. As soon as Cody saw his favorite treat, he came barreling towards the camera.

Kevin Costner’s dedication to authenticity definitely paid off. Dances With Wolves won seven academy awards and two Golden Globes.

The bison hunt scene in Dances With Wolves.