Rut Reporter David Draper grew up hunting deer and small game throughout this region and presently lives on a family farm in Nebraska. Draper, former communications specialist for Cabela’s and an authority on the Great Plains, subsists on a diet of duck breast and venison. States covered: ND, SD, NE and KS.

Just a few hours after I turned in my latest Great Plains update that mentioned the lack of reports of bucks fighting, I learned of two different instances of bucks sparring, one of which turned deadly for both combatants.

First comes a story from central Nebraska near Arnold, where my friends Cory Peterson and Dan Blowers operate Hidden Valley Outfitters on the edge of the Sandhills. According to this news report from KARE in Minneapolis, Nebraska Game and Parks officials successfully freed two bucks that had become locked up while working out their rut-fueled aggressions.

Two western Nebraska whitetails apparently weren’t so lucky. Last Friday afternoon I ran into Rob Burnett at the Cabela’s in Sidney, Nebraska, where I stopped to pick up a fresh bottle of doe estrus. He related his sad story of finding two whitetails in the 120-130 class dead in the river near his lease last week. It seems they had locked horns and either died of exhaustion or drowned.

It’s too bad these two nice bucks didn’t make it through the season, but it serves as a reminder. While it’s cool to watch from the sidelines, the whitetail rut can be deadly serious business to the animals involved.