Trio of trophy Meigs County bucks found floating, antler-locked in Leading Creek
By JIM FREEMAN
ALBANY – Whitetail deer bucks have been known to get their antlers locked together during battle, and there are photos and reports of hunters harvesting locked deer, or of people finding their carcasses.
But these events are exceptionally rare, and generally involve two deer.
So it was a total surprise when three antler-locked whitetail deer were found floating in a stream in western Meigs County, and these weren’t ordinary garden-variety bucks, they were trophy-class deer – a 122-inch seven-point with a broken tine, a 140-inch 10-pointer, and a 169-inch 11-pointer.
A private forester from McArthur, Jason Good, was cruising timber on the property of Brien Burke along the headwaters of Leading Creek when he came across the three deer floating in the creek, Burke said.
“He was really excited,” Burke said. “There is no cell phone reception down there so he had to go somewhere he could call.
“He called my father, who didn’t believe him,” he added.
In fairness though, you had to see it to believe it, he explained, adding that they tried to determine the size of the antlers on the bucks, but one of them was floating in a position that made it nearly impossible to see the antlers.
Burke called a friend who works for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife who wisely advised him to leave the bucks where they were and contacted Meigs County Wildlife Officer Josh Shields.
The deer were found on Friday Nov. 12 and Shields was unable to respond to the scene until Monday, Nov. 15, which amounted to three suspenseful days for Burke and his friends.
“He handled the situation perfectly as far as the legal aspects of it were concerned,” Shield said. “I didn’t realize how special of a deal it was until it was all done. It’s pretty rare.
“I have been told there are only five cases in the country of three locked bucks,” he said. “Two of those are from Ohio, counting this one.”
After investigating the scene, Shields determined the deer died of natural – albeit highly unusual – causes and wrote the landowner several receipts for the carcasses (one for each individual deer and another for the three combined) similar to those used for road-killed deer, allowing Burke to keep the deer.
Then came the question of how to remove the bucks from their watery grave; Burke said he had discussed borrowing a backhoe to pluck them out of the creek and then Shields suggested they cut off two of the heads, leaving one attached, and the pull them out of the creek that way. Another friend, Chris Davis of Athens, got into the creek with waders and trapping gloves, secured the antlers with zip ties (to ensure they remained intertwined precisely as they were found) and removed the heads allowing the remaining carcass and attached antlers to be extracted.
There were no witnesses to this epic whitetail battle, but it is almost certain the three deer were fighting over a doe in heat.
“I imagine there was a hot doe in the area and two of the bucks were fighting,” Shields said. “A third one joined in the battle which progressed down into the creek.
“They got in the pool and couldn’t get out.”
Burke said the fight started about 30 yards away from the creek on a bank sloping down to the water’s edge.
“One fell and pulled them all in,” he suggested.
One can barely imagine the intensity of the fight that must have ensued when the three champions of the woods arrived at the scene to battle for superiority. Whitetail deer are not considered particularly ferocious, in fact, any of the three bucks would have fled in fear from perhaps the smallest human child, but facing off against each other there was no timidity
The ferocity and noise must have been something, the scars and marks visible in the photographs tell the tale, and eventually the deer tumbled into the creek.
Nature it seems, while often cruel and violent, is not without a twisted sense of humor; the weapons the animals bore ultimately locked them together, with the creek finally deciding the outcome of the battle by claiming all three of the combatants. Shields speculated that the battle ended quickly once they fell into the creek.
Looking at the photos it is hard to determine where one deer’s antlers stop and another’s begins, they are that closely intertwined. However, the antlers, as green-scored by official scorer Jack Satterfield, Danville, measured 431 combined inches of whitetail buck.
So what happens to the deer now?
Although rumors have circulated that the antlers have been sold to Bass Pro Shop or Cabela’s, Burke said no decisions have been made, although he would like to have several sets of replica antlers made for his friends that were involved in the amazing discovery. Burke owns the land on both sides of the creek so there are no ownership disputes surrounding the find.
Meanwhile, the photos of the deer have gone viral on bowhunting and deer hunting websites and discussion boards, and are also available for view at www.petersenshunting.com where it tops their list of most popular articles.
“It’s just one of those freak-of-nature things,” Shields said.
“As a deer hunter you feel kind of sad; it saddens you that nobody got to hunt those deer. You hate to see any animal die that way.”