posted: Monday 7 November 2016
by: Shari Horton
While most hunters are gearing up to bag a big buck, employees at the Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge (Minnesota), located south of McGregor, made an attempt to give a monster buck one lucky break!
The crisp fall morning 24 Oct. was one of the chilliest of the season so far, with temperatures hovering around freezing point. It found seasonal biological technicians Duane King and Sarah Trujillo conducting the annual waterfowl survey from the refuge’s airboat. The airboat, the technicians’ mode of transportation for the count, is propelled with a sizable five-blade prop that pushes air over the fins with the use of a 350 Chevy engine, enabling it to glide over wet surfaces and navigate through the wild rice stalks on Rice Lake.
While conducting the waterfowl count, King and Trujillo discovered a large buck (11-pointer) bogged down in the mud about 300 yards from the cattails, approximately 400 yards from solid ground. When they noticed the buck was still there a few hours later, they, along with refuge manager Walt Ford and maintenance mechanic Clint DeMenge, decided to take action.
Approaching the distressed buck with the airboat, they observed he was shivering and surmised he could be hypothermic. Not wanting to stress the buck, they shut the airboat off and poled the airboat closer to provide mild encouragement. That method managed to get the buck about 100 yards closer to safety. At that time, it became apparent that less subtle techniques were necessary.
With the airboat idling at low speed and a few yells of encouragement, the buck made it to the edge of the cattails under his own power, requiring a few rest stops along the way.
“When the buck finally made it to the cattails, it couldn’t muster the energy to get up on them,” said Ford. “At that point, we put a rope around its neck and dragged it with the airboat.”
A broken canoe paddle was placed alongside its neck to keep the rope from becoming too tight and choking the deer.
“It was a bit of a rodeo for a while as it didn’t want to be dragged and we didn’t want it in the airboat with us,” exclaimed Ford. “My orders to Duane were if it looked like it would actually be able to get into the boat, speed up!”
The four employees were finally able to drag the buck to shallow water near the shoreline with fairly solid footing and allow it to rest. The rope was removed and the buck eventually shook the mud off “like a dog” and was further encouraged to continue on to higher ground, where it eventually trotted down the road.
“Of course, the irony is if the stress doesn’t kill the buck, a hunter may in a couple weeks,” noted Ford, who jokingly added, “Perhaps he will be more fearful of humans and hunker down during deer hunting season and survive – that is unless he decides to chase the girls (does) – that could lead him into trouble!”
“Oh, and we rescued a monarch butterfly that was in the water and in distress, too! It’s all in a day’s work,” said Ford.