In separate incidents, two Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officers have freed whitetail bucks in recent days — using firepower.
In Cook County, CO Darin Fagerman of Grand Marais received a call of a buck with its antlers wrapped in a hammock.
“It was dark and the deer was extremely tangled in the hammock, but the buck was still on its feet and able to move,” Fagerman said.
Killing the deer was the last thing he wanted to do, Fagerman said, but after surveying the situation he saw no alternatives.
Approaching the deer with his sidearm, he shot, intending to kill the deer. But he missed when the buck pulled back at the last moment.
Which was lucky for the deer.
“The gunshot startled the buck, which then pulled straight back on the hammock, exposing about two inches of the antler just above the base of the head,” Fagerman said. “Thankfully, the buck stayed still and I was then able to shoot the antler off. The deer, wasting no time, then ran off into the darkness,” Fagerman said.
“Conservation officers never know what they may encounter.”
The second buck-saving incident occurred when CO Jeremy Woinarowicz of Thief River Falls answered a call Dec. 28 that two bucks were locked up by their antlers in a field near Warren in Polk County.
When Woinarowicz arrived at the scene, he saw that the larger buck had already died and the live buck was frantically trying to break free.
“I did not have any assistance and I did not want the buck to stay attached any longer. I recalled that several years ago CO Greg Oldakowski of Wadena used his sidearm to shoot the antlers and free a couple of bucks that were locked together,” Woinarowicz said.
“I didn’t know if the buck that was still alive would survive the stress of roping, hog tying and sawing of antlers, so I decided to use the ‘Oldakowski Method.’ ”
That method resulted in some of the bucks' tines being shot off. But the live deer still wasn't free.
A bigger gun was needed.
“I retrieved my duty shotgun from my patrol vehicle. A single well-placed slug on the dead buck’s antlers did the trick. The antlers flew apart and the live buck bounded away with one antler attached, and lived to fight another day,” Woinarowicz said.