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On Monday, February 6, Kansas game warden Ryan Twellmann was called to the scene of a grisly incident on a farm near the town of Rantoul. A landowner had spotted two whitetail bucks that managed to get their antlers locked together during the heat of battle. When Twellmann arrived, he found that one of the deer had already died, but the other buck was still alive—and was struggling to free its rack from the antlers of its dead competitor. As the responding officer on the scene, Twellman was tasked with saving the live buck from its life-threatening predicament.

“The dead deer was only half a deer,” Twellmann told Field & Stream. “Both of its hindquarters had been scavenged by coyotes.” When Twellmann approached the live deer, it attempted to flee. But the body of the dead buck it was dragging got snagged on a barbed wire fence.

Hunting Conservation photo
Twellmann said the dead deer was probably scavenged by coyotes the night before he arrived at the farm. Kansas Department of Parks and Wildlife

“That’s what allowed me to get close enough to take the shot,” Twellman said. “I was as surprised as anyone that it actually worked.” At 15 yards, Twellmann drew down on the dead buck’s main beam with his Benelli pump-action shotgun. He peered through the aperture site and fired one slug from the gun while the landowner looked on from behind.

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“I was worried I was going to brain the live deer, and it would end up all over Facebook,” Twellman said. Fortunately, the slug connected with Twellmann’s intended target. It busted off the main beam of the dead deer, allowing the live buck to run away unharmed.

Scenarios like the one Twellmann encountered are rare, particularly in late winter when bucks are winding down from the rigors of a long mating season. “Around here, bucks are dropping their antlers pretty good,” he said. “I was shocked that the antlers didn’t just pop off with how hard these deer must have been struggling.”