Sharpshooting Game Warden Frees Trapped Buck by Shooting Its Antler

by TK Sanders
(Photo By Dennis Anderson/Star Tribune via Getty Images)

A quick-thinking, sharpshooting game warden from Pennsylvania freed a buck whose antler got tangled in a net with a stellar shot from his rifle.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission warden shared photos of the rescue scene via social media Monday. One of the photos amazingly shows the exact moment the deer’s antler dislodged from the net as the warden aims from the foreground. The rifle shot severed the antler on impact.

Warden Ryan Zawada showed up to the scene after a bystander called in the situation. From the photos, it appears as if the netting spun around itself as the buck tried to escape, causing more of a dire issue.

“Given the deer’s state of distress upon arrival, Zawada was nervous that chemical immobilization was not a safe option to remove the deer from the net,” Pennsylvania Game Commission officials wrote in the Facebook post. “He decided the best option was to shoot the caught antler off. After the shot, one antler lighter, the buck ran off unharmed.”

How does a buck shed an antler?

The commission did not address what type of gun or ammunition Zawada used to free the buck from the netting.

For those unfamiliar with the animals, male deer routinely shed their antlers each year between January and April. Mating season concludes in the winter, and testosterone levels drop precipitously. The hormone change causes shedding, at which point the process begins again. As bucks survive and mature from year to year, so, too, do their antlers grow with more points and ornate structures.

Shedding does not cause the animals any pain whatsoever, so the warden’s shot did nothing but free the distressed buck back into the wild.

Each year in the growth phase, antlers appear with a soft velvet membrane. The membrane provides the nutrients needed to build the bone mass over the next two to four months. As testosterone levels increase, the veins and arteries around the velvet constrict and cut off blood supply. Bucks then rub their antlers against trees to strip away the velvet before mating season.

Tangled deer routinely cause issues for outdoor officials, and often, creative solutions are needed

The photos of the “rescue” suggest that the buck was relatively young, given its small and simple antlers.

Tangled deer antlers is also nothing new for game wardens and outdoorsmen alike. Often two rival bucks will tangle their antlers during a skirmish, leading to dangerous situation for concerned humans who want to help the animals. When entangled, the animals panic and lash out; but they will almost always die if left alone while entangled.

In a similar situation captured on video back in 2020, a wildlife officer in Canada freed two bucks from simultaneous entanglement with an expert shot from range.