Deer death duels

Deer death duels

Each autumn, testosterone-fueled whitetail bucks, their necks swollen to twice normal size in preparation for battle, clash in combat to determine who will win the right to breed the area’s does. Most of the time, the fights are nothing more than violent pushing and shoving matches lasting only a few minutes, with one or both of the combatants possibly a little bloodied, but injuries are usually not serious.

Occasionally, however, the antlers of mature bucks can become so inextricably interlocked that separation is impossible. The deer are then doomed to a long, slow death from starvation or exposure. It doesn’t happen often, but each year pairs of such deer are reported throughout the Buckeye State.

Al Brown’s deer-head sculpture, featuring locked whitetail deer antlers.

Al Brown’s deer-head sculpture, featuring locked whitetail deer antlers.

Interlocked moose antlers on display at Denali National Park’s Eielson Visitor Center in Alaska.
Two entangled whitetail deer heads as they appeared when found on the Clint Walker farm in Morrow County in 2017;

Clint Walker, a member of Consolidated Cooperative, discovered just such a pair of dead bucks on his farm in Morrow County in north-central Ohio during the autumn of 2017. Interestingly, this is not the first unusual find on the Walker farm. In 2013, a mastodon skeleton was discovered and subsequently excavated by biology professors and students from Ashland University. According to carbon-14 dating techniques, the giant bones were estimated at 13,000 years old.  

Al Brown discovered a pair of whitetail bucks in an antler death lock on his property near Lucas, Ohio, several years ago and turned his rare find into a stunning, one-of-a-kind work of wildlife art.

“I first saw the tips of the antlers sticking out of the water of a wetland I had created and, being a hunter, instantly knew what had happened,” Brown says. “Two bucks had locked antlers, then fought their way into my wetland where they drowned.”

The bucks turned out to be two mature 10-pointers, one with an unusual double drop tine set of antlers. It was a once-in-a-lifetime discovery, and Brown thought of a unique way to display his find.

“I first milled some sassafras wood from my property and added a slab of natural granite to the base of the display to help steady it. I then began carving the wood that would eventually hold the two deer heads in place. I probably have several hundred hours invested in creating the sculpture. My goal was to make it look organic, as if it was emerging from the earth.”       

Even more rare than two whitetail bucks getting their antlers entangled is three bucks doing so. That happened several years ago in southern Ohio, and as with Al Brown’s bucks, the trio was found drowned, in the deep pool of a small stream.  

Bull moose, the largest member of the deer family, can weigh nearly a ton, and even though their antlers are much heavier and more palmated than those of whitetail deer, they can also become intertwined during battle. On display outside the entrance to Eielson Visitor Center at Denali National Park in Alaska are two such moose skulls, discovered in 2003. If you examine the skulls closely, you can see that a sharp antler tine from one of the bulls pierced the eye socket of the other animal, no doubt blinding the unlucky bull in that eye before the pair died.  

By the time the two dead moose were found by park naturalists, the meat had been stripped from the bones by predators and the skeletons scattered. The same happens in Ohio; death for one means life for another. The circle of life in the wild continues … 

NOTE: Before taking possession of any deer antlers, deer carcass, or any other deer parts, always contact a state wildlife officer (1-800-WILDLIFE) to obtain the proper permit.