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Wardens, wildlife biologists work together to free two locked bucks

The two locked bucks. Photo courtesy of Dan and Kelly Finop

It was Sunday night, three days before Valentine's Day, when Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Conservation Warden Alex Brooks got a call from a citizen concerned about the welfare of two big bucks just seen doing the tango with their antlers locked together not far from Lake Delton in Sauk County.

Brooks knew trying to find the two big boys in the dark Sunday night would not be the best idea since they likely would be pushing and pulling to break free with all their might.

"It would be very hard to find them in the dark on Sunday with how much energy they still had in them," Brooks said.

This was to be a Monday morning job for him and Warden Rich Maki, another member of the warden team serving Sauk County.

"The next morning, we went out with the caller to his property looking for the bucks at the last known location," Brooks said.

The two wardens and the caller walked all over the area but didn't find any signs of the bucks.

As they trekked about in search of the two bucks traveling together — sorta — a couple came upon the search party and said they got photos of the locked bucks to share with the wardens.

At this point, photos were all they had found on this chase to find the buddy bucks.

"We were all about to call it, in hopes that the bucks had gotten separated," Brooks said.

As fate would have it, another car pulled up as the window goes down.

"Are you guys DNR?"

Nods.

And, with genuine excitement, the car's occupants relayed what they had just seen — two bucks with their antlers locked together on the other side of the hill. So, with that compass correction, the two wardens and citizens trekked on over to the other side.

There they were, two bucks caught in antler angst. One was a 10-pointer, the other was a 9-pointer, both still full of energy trying to get apart from one another.

"The bucks had traveled onto adjoining property, which the landowner was notified of and met us," Brooks said.

It was time to call in reinforcements from the DNR Wildlife Management section where the wildlife biologists work. Sure, they can come and help figure out the best steps to solve the situation.

By now, it was 2 p.m. Imagine trekking the woods and fields for a few hours and how that can get a bit tiring on your legs. Now imagine how tired the bucks must have felt after hours of this tug-of-war routine.

The DNR wildlife biologists tell us this is not a good situation for the deer. Not only does a locked antler situation cause exhaustion in the deer, it also puts a lot of stress on their muscles — including the most important one — the heart.

The wildlife biologists, in close consultation with their DNR wildlife veterinarian and wildlife health colleagues, determined this was a case for calming the deer with an immobilization chemical just long enough to safely separate them.

DNR Research Scientist Mike Watt got out the dart projector and carefully approached the two tangled bucks.

"Mike Watt was 2 for 2 on shot placement," Brooks said of Watt's expert aim. "The first buck went down fairly quickly. After the second dart placement, the second buck went down as well and we were able to slowly approach them."

The team of wardens and biologists moved swiftly and smoothly to safely separate the bucks. With the removal of one antler tine, the unified bucks became two again.

Next came the reversal agent to ease the freed buddies out of their slumber.

DNR wildlife biologists Nancy Frost and Travis Anderson held the heads of the bucks while the darts were carefully removed by Watt. Watt also attached ear tags to each buck to indicate they had been immobilized at one time.

"Without them (DNR wildlife staff), this wouldn't have been able to happen," Brooks said. "We are glad that we were able to work together and keep these two bucks in the gene pool. "

He said the caller also was very satisfied with how the DNR team worked together to help the deer as he, too, wanted the bucks to survive.

"Within minutes they (bucks) got up - and walked away together," Brooks said.

Now there's a life lesson. Whatever got these two bucks in a tangle, they let it go and walked away together. No grudges in this wildlife story!

It must have looked like a Valentine's Day card - friends forever... well, at least for awhile.

Thanks to the citizens, wardens and biologists. Teamwork strikes again!

If you have information regarding natural resource violations, you may confidentially report by calling or texting the violation hotline at (800) 847-9367. The hotline is in operation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Trained staff relay report information to conservation wardens.