Locked Bucks Found Dead in Lake

When two bucks fight for dominance, the result can sometimes be deadly.

Locked Bucks Found Dead in Lake

Each fall, millions of whitetail hunters take to the field in hopes of shooting a big buck, and a decent percentage of them will attempt to call in a wall-hanger by rattling. The technique certainly doesn’t work all of the time, but it can be effective, especially when bucks are searching for — or fighting over — a doe in heat.

I’ve never witnessed locked bucks (alive or dead), but I have a couple buddies who encountered a pair a few years ago in eastern Wyoming. The bucks were alive but exhausted. My friends freed the bucks by cutting a couple antler tines. One buck ran away slowly, the other just laid there; my friends immediately left the area and they have no idea whether one or both bucks died shortly afterward.

The photos highlighted here caught my eye on Facebook for two reasons. First, I’ve never seen a locked pair discovered floating in a lake. According to the person who posted the pics, the dead bucks were found near Outlet Recreation Marine store in the channel on the Whitefish Chain in Crosslake (central Minnesota).

The second reason I took notice was the date; the bucks were found on the morning of Oct. 22, 2022. Minnesota is my home state, so I feel like I have a good pulse on deer activity throughout the fall. While bucks certainly have breeding on their brain on October 22, this is about 2 weeks before bucks will encounter a doe in heat. Fights to the death, though rare, typically occur when two bucks are fighting over a doe in heat and their antlers become locked. (In Minnesota, this means that both deer will be killed by coyotes, or in the northern part of the state, wolves.)

The person who posted the pics says that neighbors saw these bucks fighting the night before on dry land. It’s clear the bucks must have moved their fight to the edge of the lake, or they stumbled into deep water as they fought, then drowned. No one witnessed the water incident, so it was likely after dark.

Although I suppose it’s possible there was an early doe in heat nearby, my guess is they were simply trying to sort out dominance, which is usually a very short fight, and their racks became locked.

I’ve watched enough YouTube videos of locked bucks through the years to know that the bucks don’t stop fighting each other, at least when both are alive. However, If one buck is killed, perhaps an antler tine penetrates its brain, then the living buck will attempt to free itself (pull away).

It’s certainly unfortunate when two magnificent bucks such as these are killed in this manner. But that’s the circle of life; Mother Nature can be kind and cruel. The good news is because the locals knew precisely when the bucks died, and the lake water was quite cold, the meat could be salvaged.


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