During the annual rut, or mating season, sparring matches between bucks, bulls, and other male mammals aren’t at all uncommon. Every fall, males experience an increase in testosterone, increased aggression, and increased interest in females of their respective species. They undergo physical changes to make themselves more attractive to females and will even fight in an effort to demonstrate their dominance over other males.
Now, the primary goal of these sparring matches actually isn’t to inflict harm. Instead, it’s simply males’ attempt to prove themselves the biggest, strongest buck on the market and, in doing so, attract more females.
That said, sparring doesn’t come without risk. Injuries from fights with other males do happen. Because while sparring is more akin to arm wrestling than a fight to the death, bucks are exceptionally strong and their antlers more than capable of causing puncture wounds. And sometimes, in perhaps the worst possible outcome of them all, the bucks’ winding antlers become entangled, locking the males in an endless battle.
An antler tangle might not seem more dangerous than a puncture wound but the predicament makes it impossible for the males to feed, making starvation a distinct possibility. It also severely limits movement and coordination, which can lead to falls and even drowning.
Two trophy-class whitetail bucks in Minnesota found themselves in this exact situation in late October. Sadly, neither made it out of the shallow lake alive, both meeting their end in a watery grave.
Minnesota DNR Pulled the Lifeless Bucks From the Lake
Sharing the harrowing scene to Facebook, the homeowner whose property houses the lake explained that she had marveled at three bucks wandering her yard for weeks. Then one morning, she noticed that their numbers had been reduced to one. The other two seemingly vanished without a trace.
The next day, she ventured out to her yard to find the grass covered in scrapes and deer tracks, leading her to believe the bucks were sparring. Tracks from the bucks continued up to one of the docks and all the way down into the water. Moving closer to the lake, she found the two lifeless deer floating in the water.
After the shocking discovery, the homeowner called DNR to the scene to investigate. “A tip call came into our poaching hotline and two conservation officers responded on the scene,” MDNR spokesman Joe Albert told Field & Stream. “They put a rope around the deer and used an ATV to pull them up to shore.”
Once the bucks were pulled from the icy water, DNR officials determined that the bodies were fresh enough for the meat to be salvaged. A nearby resident was more than happy to take the meat off their hands. “Somebody was there that wanted the meat,” Albert said. “So our officers issued a possession tag, and they left the deer with them.”