Have you ever described something as a “once in a lifetime” experience? Many times we hear people use that term to describe a wide array of uncommon events.
More often than not, the occurrence in question was quite memorable to the person involved, but not one that would strike a listener as all that rare. Of course, some events really do warrant the “once in a lifetime” tag. They’re so extraordinary that you instantly know few others have experienced them.
For Oklahoma’s Chad Yousey, this “Holy smokes — can you believe this?” moment happened on Oct. 20, 2013. He’d been hunting his usual early-season spots, reserving his honeyhole for the rut. He hadn’t had much luck seeing shooter bucks or even much rutting activity, other than the typical light sparring between younger deer.
Because there had been so little rut action, when Chad got a phone call from good friend Joey King, he had a hard time believing what his ears were hearing. Joey informed him that while looking for a deer he’d shot that morning, he’d walked up on two mature bucks with their antlers fully locked together. It appeared the larger of the deer already had died.
Joey was bowhunting a 30-acre tract inside the city limits of Oklahoma City. That morning he’d decided to take a cull buck he’d seen numerous times and had frequently caught on trail camera. While trailing that deer, Joey noticed something lying in a cedar thicket. Once he was able to get a little closer and get a better look at what was there, he realized it was two deer with locked antlers.
What do I do now? Joey asked himself. He knew he’d need help to get the bucks separated, and Chad was the first person he thought of.
Joey’s location didn’t come as a surprise to him. Chad’s the owner and creator of River Bottom Pursuits, a hunting show based out of Oklahoma City. The show focuses on hunting and fishing inside the city limits. What surprised Chad was that it was only mid-October. That’s way early for two bucks to be fighting to the death. So as he drove to the site, he didn’t know what he might find when he got there. Still, nothing could have prepared him for what was about to unfold.
He was able to locate Joey as soon as he arrived. Joey had been waiting for about 15-20 minutes and was able to get his camera equipment set up. Once Chad arrived, he realized one deer was already dead and the other exhausted.
“We had time get all the cameras and tripods set up,” he recalls. “That’s why some people (who saw the video footage) said it looked staged. It wasn’t staged at all — we just knew we had a little time, because the other buck couldn’t go anywhere.”
The hunters were able to get all of their camera equipment set up and devise a plan as to how they were going to go about what they felt needed to be done to save the living deer. They decided it would be best if Joey would hold the camera and the legs of the deceased buck. Then Chad could get up close and personal with the live buck and attempt to separate the two combatants.
“The first attempt to get them unlocked didn’t go well at all,” Chad recalls. “The other buck still had quite a bit of energy left, and he was going bananas.”
Of course, the live buck didn’t know the hunters were only there to help. So every time Chad would try to get the antlers loose, the live deer would push forward in an attempt to continue fighting. With every attempt, the antlers just seemed to lock together even more tightly.
It took some work and a couple of close calls, but Chad and Joey were finally able to get the two deer unlocked from one another. With one final push from Chad and a lunge forward by the standing buck, a piece of antler broke off. That relieved the pressure slightly, at last allowing for the racks to be freed from each other.
Both men expected the survivor to bound off into the woods and bed down to recover from the ordeal he’d experienced. But that’s not what happened. Joey and Chad soon realized the altercation was far from over. The survivor didn’t try to run off.
“The coolest thing about the whole altercation was when we got them unhooked, he just took five or six steps back and stared at us,” Chad says. Whether the deer was too tired or too angry to leave can’t be known, but he stood his ground and stared down both men “for what seemed like an eternity,” Chad notes.
“My first thought was, ‘We need to get the heck out of here,’” he adds. But the hunters decided to get footage of the deceased buck before leaving. That’s right, the live deer stood there long enough (and still enough) that Chad and Joey were able to shoot footage of the recovery of his deceased foe and think about what to do next.
The men became worried the surviving buck would attack the dead deer again, so they decided the best course of action was to attempt to get the other one to leave the area.
Chad decided he wanted to remove the deceased deer from the area and process the meat — but every time the men moved that buck, the survivor acted as though he was going to lunge at them again. After a couple of minutes of them thinking about what to do next, Chad and Joey tried to get the deer to leave by just waving their arms at it and trying to shoo it off. But to their amazement, the deer was having none of that and charged both the men, sending them both running for cover.
At that point, Joey and Chad decided to give the riled-up whitetail more time, hoping he’d just leave on his own accord. While they waited for the deer to leave, they realized how rare this situation was, so Chad decided to pull out his cell phone and was able to get within 10 feet of the buck and take a few pictures of the deer looking straight into his cell phone camera. Finally the buck walked off to about 30 yards away, giving the men a chance to drag the dead deer back to the truck.
Although the buck walked off a bit and gave them room to work, he kept his eye on both men and stared at them while they worked. Once the cameras were turned off, the men dragged the dead buck about 50 yards toward the truck and stopped to take a break. They turned around to find the surviving deer had closed his distance to within 10 yards of them while they had been dragging the dead deer out of the woods.
Not wanting the deer to follow them all the way to the truck, Chad and Joey turned the cameras back on. Then Joey had Chad walk toward the deer, in an attempt to get footage of the deer running off. But it didn’t work that way.
“He charged us again,” Joe says. “As you’ll see on the video, it looks like the Blair Witch, with us just running for our lives.”
The buck was able to make contact with this charge. In fact, he gored Chad in the back of one thigh and hit Joey in the middle of his back, sending both men to the ground. They feared the attack would continue, but fortunately for them, it didn’t; the buck bounded off to about 20 yards and then simply lay down!
Joey and Chad took advantage of that chance to examine their wounds. Luckily, both men only suffered minor injuries consisting of bruises and a few scrapes. Realizing this was their chance to escape further harm, the pair grabbed their cameras and the dead deer and hightailed it to the truck.
“That was the most bizarre thing I’ve seen in the woods to date,” Chad says in a classic understatement. He says he guesses both deer would score around 130-140 inches.
Since the video footage of this wild whitetail encounter was posted on YouTube, it’s been viewed well in excess of 1 million times. With the video doing so well and another video of deer fighting to the death (check out “True Justice” on YouTube), Chad has pushed forward with his dream of having his show on television and reaching his audience through multiple media outlets. River Bottom Pursuits will air through December 2015 on KSBI in Oklahoma City.