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A Battle to Remember

MillerBy Jeff Miller

-- It was the last weekend of the rifle deer season in North Dakota. My son and I were at my mother’s home for Thanksgiving. We decided to go deer hunting the following morning (Nov. 23), since I still had a doe tag to fill.

We left the house just before daybreak. We decided to go a roundabout way to the hunting property just to see what was moving. On the way, we stopped to watch a couple of does and a buck make their way through a CRP field. While we were sitting there, a couple of non-hunters pulled alongside us and asked what we were looking for. I told them I had a doe tag to fill and we were going to a different area to hunt.

What they told us next changed our plans. A little farther down the road, they said, two bucks were fighting. So instead of going to our hunting spot, we went to find them.

We were sitting on the road trying to spot the bucks when finally one of the buck’s back came up. We didn’t see the second buck yet, however.

What we witnessed next is something I will remember forever. When the other buck finally stood up, we realized that we were looking at two bucks that were locked together in a life-and-death battle. We watched them about a half an hour before I remembered I’d left my digital camera back at the farmhouse. So off we went to get my camera.

When we returned, it took us a while to relocate the bucks, since they had moved about 200 yards. That’s when I started to take photos. It soon became apparent that one of them was wounded. My son and I got out of the vehicle and walked into the CRP field to get a closer view. We didn’t carry our rifles;just a camera.

What a sight to see. The area looked like a war zone with matted grass and blood all over. One of the bucks was gored in both hindquarters. Blood was everywhere, including on both racks. We were within 5 feet of these animals at times, taking photos all along. The grunts, snorts and smells coming from these deer was extraordinary.

MillerWe watched the fight for about 2 1/2 hours when I finally decided to call the state game & fish department to see what could be done. One of the bucks was pretty well spent at this time. I was told that since neither my son, nor I had buck tags, we couldn’t put the badly wounded buck out of its misery. I informed them that the buck was almost dead. They put me in contact with a game warden who was going to drive out there and assess the situation.

It was another 1 1/2 hours before the warden showed. So, all told, my son and I watched this amazing scene play out for almost 4 1/2 hours until the badly wounded buck died. When the warden finally arrived, I asked if she could put the live buck down as well. I wanted have had them mounted in that position. She declined the suggestion and decided to try to save the live buck by shooting off the antler. I thought for sure she was going to shoot the antler off the dead animal as well, but then she said, "I suppose you would like the rack from the dead animal." I told her that would be nice.

She managed to shoot the antler off the live deer, and away he went. She kept that half rack, though. She gave me a special carcass tag for the dead deer, which was a nice 4 x 5 buck, before leaving.

Thus ended our eventful morning. We never did finish our hunt that day.

--Jeff Miller

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