Minnesota Monster Buck Rescued From Partially Ice Covered River

Volunteer firefighters rescue a legendary big buck that fell through the ice on the Red Lake River in northwestern Minnesota.

Minnesota Monster Buck Rescued From Partially Ice Covered River

The Red Lake River flows through the small northwestern Minnesota town of Thief River Falls, and depending on winter temperatures and snowfall, ice formation on the river varies from year to year, and spot to spot along the river. This might be a difficult concept for those living in milder places to comprehend, but ice can form on a river, even one that flows at a decent pace. At times this ice can be thick enough for fishermen to not only walk on, but sometimes even drive on with full-size trucks.

Of course, as ice forms on northern lakes and especially rivers, there are days and weeks when it’s “iffy” for travel by ice anglers. And as the photos here prove, marginal ice can be dangerous for four-legged animals, too, including deer.

The images showcased here are courtesy of the Thief River Falls Volunteer Fire Department, which responded on Dec. 5, 2022, to a call about a deer that had fallen through thin ice on the Red Lake River.

But this was no average deer — it was a monster whitetail buck well-known to many residents of Thief River Falls. Photos of the legendary local buck had appeared occasionally on social media, and certainly those hunters with access to land on the outskirts of town dreamed of tagging him.

The call came in to the fire department at 7:50 a.m. A deer on the south end of town had fallen through the ice and was struggling. Its head was above the water, but it couldn’t pull itself out of the water. It was about 10 yards from shore. Firefighters estimated that the water depth at the buck’s location was approximately 6 feet, so the buck couldn’t touch bottom. No one knows for sure how long the buck had struggled to keep his head above the freezing water, but it was clear he would perish unless rescued.

Shortly after receiving the call, several firefighters arrived on the scene wearing their fully waterproof cold-weather survival suits. The rescuers placed a rope around the buck’s big rack, and then the group begin pulling.

The fact that the buck had used so much energy to try and free himself until help arrived actually worked in favor of the firefighters. A frightened buck of that size, with those massive antlers, would be very dangerous to handle if he had all of his energy.

As you can see in these photos, the firefighters eventually pulled the buck from the water and onto solid ice. Then they moved the buck onto land; he didn’t fight his rescuers. The buck didn’t stand and run off into the adjacent woods immediately after the rope was removed from his antlers. Instead, he laid there for a couple minutes before finally standing and slowly walking away.

It’ll be interesting to learn whether the monster buck survives Minnesota’s 2022-2023 winter, which thus far has been one with more snow than usual. The buck’s massive antlers will certainly be on the radar of local shed hunters. And if he makes it to spring, then grows another massive rack during summer, perhaps a lucky hunter will encounter the buck during fall.


Photos courtesy of the Thief River Falls Volunteer Fire Department


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