OH: Three locked up bucks found dead in shallow Ohio waters

Pomeroy, Ohio – The incidence of two bucks locking horns and
eventually succumbing to death is not all that unusual.

But, three bucks locked in a death struggle is quite rare.

That’s what Brien Burke of Meigs County found on his farm
recently: three bucks, all of which would score at least 120,
locked in a death struggle in a shallow creek bed.

“I was flabbergasted when I saw it,” said Burke.

Burke said a neighbor called him to say there was something
unusual on his property.

“I thought (he was talking about) a meth lab or a murder or
something,” Burke said. “Never did I dream it would be something
like this.”

It’s a scenario that is so rare that it was a first in the
16-year career of Mike Tonkovich, the DNR Division of Wildlife’s
chief deer biologist.

Tonkovich surmised that the two larger bucks – one that would
score 170 and the other at 140 – began to fight over an estrous
doe, and the third, which would score in the 120s, joined the

“There really isn’t a lot to say from a science-based
standpoint,” Tonkovich said. “In particular, we really don’t know
what that third buck was thinking when he decided to jump into the
fray. But, clearly there had to have been a receptive doe in the
area because those first two bucks were drawn there by something.
One of those bucks wanted to breed that doe.

“Bachelor groups have long been scattered, so those bucks must
have all been in the area for the same reason,” he said. “Deer are
out there to reproduce and pass on their genes so that’s why they
were there.”

Tonkovich said he probably wouldn’t have believed the story had
he not seen evidence of it first hand.

“I’ve not seen that in my career and had I not seen it with my
own eyes here at the office I probably would have been a bit
skeptical,” he said.

The incidence of two bucks locking up is not rare at all and is
something that is seen every year, Tonkovich said.

“There are at least two cases, maybe three, that I’ve seen
pictures of this year so it is very common,” he said. “I have never
seen nor heard about something like this and I would expect to
since it’s such an odd thing. I’m really at a loss for words for
something like this.”

Tonkovich estimates that the three bucks started their fight on
dry land, but eventually ended up in the creek where they likely

“It would have been an all-out fight,” he said. “They all ended
up losing by the looks of it.

“Given the condition they were in, it’s likely they weren’t
there for very long,” Tonkovich said. “So, it’s unlikely that they
died of exhaustion on the shore and were washed into the

Evidence of scraped up trees was found along the shoreline,
suggesting that the bucks did most of the damage on dry land,
Tonkovich said.

“They apparently got below a big tree that forced them to get
close to the water,” the biologist said. “One of them must have
slipped off the bank and into the water, which of course would have
pulled the others in with it.”

That’s the scenario that Burke believes happened. The bucks
“tore up the bank,” he said, and ended up in a shallow portion of
the creek. Deeper water was nearby, though, and they all ended up
in the deeper pool.

The three bucks were found in their shallow grave in Leading
Creek, which oddly has been the site of many dead deer over the
years, Tonkovich said. The water was about four feet deep where
they were found, plenty deep enough to drown them.

“Back in 2002 when we had our first known outbreak of
hemorrhagic disease, we walked a good mile of that creek and
discovered scores of deer that had died from disease,” Tonkovich
said. “That’s a bad omen there for deer. That creek takes a lot of
deer in Meigs County.”

Meigs County Wildlife Officer Josh Shields issued a receipt for
the bucks, according to the Division of Wildlife.

Burke said he hadn’t before seen any of the three bucks because
he hasn’t had much time to hunt this year. A neighbor, though, has
sheds from one of the bucks and “is just sick about it,” Burke

Burke said he would like to do a full body mount of the three
bucks, but he hasn’t got the space to showcase it. He’s not sure
what he will do with them, but he said he’ll likely get replicas of
the racks made.

It’s a bizarre story, but one that Tonkovich wishes would have
turned out differently.

“It’s unfortunate that hunters didn’t have a chance to harvest
those bucks because all three were nice animals,” he said.

Burke agreed.

“It’s amazing and sad at the same time,” he said.

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