By John Martino
It’s something we’ve all heard about but few have ever seen in person, or ever will. It’s no secret that during the deer breeding season, adult bucks will sometimes fight each other.
Fueled by testosterone, like pubescent teenagers, bucks lock horns to establish dominance, usually by clashing their antlers together, then pushing to see which is the strongest. The winner claims mating rights with the does, thus passing on the genes of the most dominant buck. Most skirmishes result in the loser retreating with his tail tucked between his legs. But occasionally their horns may become locked together, tighter than a Fort Knox vault. In rare instances, unable to free themselves, they both die.
If you’ve ever seen a picture of two trophy bucks, antler-locked together that died, you’ve undoubtedly asked yourself: What are the chances I’ll ever find something like that in the woods? If you are Jeff Fager or his son Ryne, it’s a question they recently had answered.
An avid deer hunter, Jeff has never considered himself extra lucky, but now realizes just how fortunate he was on that beautiful October day several weeks back.
Jeff, Ryne and family friends Dustin and Josh Rodkey had made plans to enjoy an afternoon archery hunting for deer on a rural Cass County farm. “I was looking forward to spending a beautiful evening hunting with the boys,” Jeff said. He had no clue what they would stumble upon.
Later that evening, the group pulled into their designated parking spot and began discussing the evening’s hunt while everyone readied their clothing and equipment. The Fagers had decided to hunt one area while the Rodkey brothers had chosen another. Before long, Jeff and Ryne found themselves slowly and silently picking their way along the small path which wound its way deep into the woods.
Looking to his right, Jeff caught a glimpse of white. Closer inspection revealed tall antler tines low to the ground.
“Stop!” he hissed to his son, with an air of urgency. “There is a big buck bedded right over there.”
They both stood motionless contemplating their next move. After a few moments they could tell something wasn’t right. They soon discovered there was not just one huge buck, but two. One was a massive 10-pointer, the other even larger carrying 11 points and their antlers had become hopelessly locked together during an earlier battle. Unable to free themselves, they succumbed to the sometimes cruel laws of nature.
“They had not been dead very long,” said Jeff. “Their bodies were still warm and pliable.”
Although the Fagers knew this sometimes happens, they never thought they would find two bucks of this magnitude in their lifetime, let alone on a casual afternoon hunt in Cass County.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” added Ryne. “It was amazing to find two quality deer like that locked together in death.”
The Fagers did everything right after making their find. They immediately contacted the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, which directed them to the Cass County sheriff department, which issued them the permit to keep the bucks. In Indiana, it is illegal to possess not only antlers but any part of a deer without a proper hunting license, or special permit.
“They did the proper thing,” said Howard County Conservation Officer William Dale. “Even if you would find a deer that was hit on the road or dead in the woods, you still need a permit before you can take any part of it.”
For most of us, finding a natural phenomenon like this is something we only read about in glossy magazines or see on the Internet.
“I just hated to find something like this and not do anything with it,” Jeff explained. “I think it would have been disrespectful to just leave them there.”
After careful consideration, he has decided to have a European mount completed on both massive skulls, with the heads locked together just the way they were found in the field.
“It will definitely make a unique conversation piece,” he added with a laugh. “We ended up with two trophy bucks and never fired the first shot.”
Early Archery Season Hunting Results
Area bowhunters are continuing their success with several trophy bucks being collected over the past week tipping the scales in excess of 200 pounds. Here are the names of area sportsmen who have taken deer to one of our areas state approved deer check-in stations. This information, which includes field-dressed weights, is provided by Bryant’s Outdoor Store, Burlington Meats, Simpson’s Deer Processing and U.S. 31 Bait and Tackle.
Joel King — 120-pound doe; Jerry Todd — 60-pound doe; Mike Bell — 165-pound, eight-point buck; Terry Thor — 200-pound, 27-point buck; Justin Bryant — 135-pound, nine-point buck; Brad Downey — 220-pound, nine-point buck; Jerry Koon — 80-pound, button buck; Luke Calvin — 100-pound doe; Mike Hale — 180-pound, seven-point buck; Jerry Koon — 170-pound, 10-point buck; Blake Clark — 140-pound, eight-point buck; Kenny Wagler — 135-pound, six-point buck.
Ryan McClish — 125-pound, six-point buck; Todd Cripe — 170-pound, 10-point buck; Noel Evans — 170-pound, eight-point buck; Shawn Holford — 180-pound, 12-point buck; Joe Thieke — 230-pound, nine-point buck; Kip Piel — 100-pound doe; Jack Steele — 90-pound doe; James Temple — 100-pound doe; Casey Jones — 175-pound, 10-point buck; Leroy Pannier — 100-pound doe; Travis Rose — 120-pound doe; Jerry Rose — 130-pound doe; Craig Hulsey — 120-pound doe; Donald Combs — 150-pound, eight-point buck; Mike Whitaker — 100-pound doe; Matt Martin — 90-pound button buck.
John Martino is the Tribune’s outdoors columnist. He may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.