Raw nature is truly a thing of beauty–but it isn’t always for the faint of heart. A common occurrence in the wild can sometimes leave us realizing truly how little we actually know about the game we pursue. Josh Shields is a Wildlife Officer for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. He got a first hand lesson in the raw, unvarnished power of nature last fall in
"It was kind of a gloomy site when I first saw it, because the deer had been dead for what we approximated to be around a week," Shields told Metronews. "It was starting to get cold in early November and it was real evident they were all locked together."
All locked together. All THREE locked together. Shields was called to investigate the discovery in a remote
"Probably at that time of year they were fighting over a doe that was in heat," said Shields. "I think the larger deer came in toward the end of the fight. I don’t know if the two smaller bucks were originally locked or if the bigger deer made all three of them get stuck together. The largest of the deer looked like it slipped, fell in the creek, and pulled them all down with him."
The mass of antlers plunged into a five foot deep pool of water in the creek. The bank nearby was riddled form the melee. Shields estimates the fight started 20 or 30 yards up stream. Broken limbs and tree trunks scarred with antler marks were everywhere. The soft soil along the creek bottom was freshly tilled by the raging animals.
The smallest of the deer measured 125-inches with its 8-points under Pope and Young measurements. The second deer was a 140-inch ten-pointer. However, the third deer, the one who had crashed the battle, was an 11-pointer which green scored at 172-inches.
"All together they totaled 431 inches of antler," said Shields. "So when you walk upon that in the murky water and all of their heads submerged, you really couldn’t tell at first how big they were. We had a feeling at least one of them was a larger animal. When we pulled the heads up it was surprising to see how much antler was there."
Shields says he’ll probably never see anything like it again in his career. Few do. He says from all of his research since the discovery there are only five documented cases of three warring bucks discovered dead with interlocked antlers–two of them have been in the state of Ohio.
He adds it also gives credence to hunters who use rattling antlers in an attempt to bring dominant bucks within shooting range.
"I think it kind of justifies a deer hunter to rattle," Shields said. "That fight brought in every deer in the area. You could see it play out in your mind. There was a hot doe, two bucks chasing her, they started fighting, and from there every buck in the area came into that spot."
Although amazed by the find, the discovery had to be tinged with sadness. Three trophy deer are gone from the population.
"As a deer hunter, you hate to see that. But it’s one of those freak things only Mother Nature can control," he said.