In his scant 17 years on this earth, Jacob Gray had never seen anything like what he and a pal came across earlier this month while fishing in a bass tournament on Table Rock Lake.
From afar, it looked like a big set of deer antlers sticking up out of the water. But it wasn’t just one set. It was two.
Two dead deer floated in the water, their antlers locked in mortal combat.
Nature can be such a beast.
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“It was really weird. I’ve never seen anything like that in real life,” Gray, a student at Mansfield High, told the Springfield News-Leader.
Gray, his fishing partner, 18-year-old Andrew Roy, and their guide, Kendall Keith, found the two bucks in a cove next to the Kimberling City bridge.
Keith estimated one animal was an 11-point buck, the other an 8-point.
“It was a sad deal, two good bucks that died that way. While we were fishing the day before we saw a buck chasing a doe on shore,” Keith told the newspaper, though he couldn’t be sure the buck they saw was one of the dead ones.
The whitetail deer’s mating season, or “rut,” is underway, causing bucks to be bold in their quest for mates, Missouri conservation agent Tyler Harding told the Daily Journal in Park Hills, Mo. That includes running out into roads in front of cars and fighting each other.
“While most ‘fights’ are just pushing and shoving matches often involving young bucks that don’t even know they are bucks yet, others are aggressive encounters,” according to the “Whitetail Journal” on GrandViewOutdoors.com.
“Older, mature bucks — those that do three-quarters of the mating — do throw down. And sometimes those fights can be downright nasty.”
Buck-to-buck combat can lead to direct and indirect mortality, which means the deer die from internal damage from fighting or wounds that get infected.
Less frequently, they can die when two or three bucks’ antlers get locked together, according to BuckManager.com.
In late December 2016 a young woman riding her horse through the woods around Springfield found two huge whitetail bucks with their antlers locked up. They were dead. The ground around them was torn up, and hair was everywhere, suggesting a mighty battle.
After he and his buddy found the two deer in Table Rock Lake, Roy contacted the Missouri Department of Conservation for a “disposition slip,” or permit, allowing him to keep the two animals. He wants to mount their heads, together.
“I’m hoping we can keep the antlers locked together like that.” Roy told the News-Leader. “It’s definitely not something you see every day.”