« BuckTracker: Why Waiting Works | Main | Whitetail News: Maryland Man “Belly-Slams” Intruding Doe »

December 19, 2007

This page has been moved to http://www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/whitetail-365

If your browser doesn’t redirect you to the new location, please visit The Whitetail 365 at its new location: www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/whitetail-365.

BuckTracker: Is Shooting a Locked Buck Ethical?

Last week we ran a slide show depicting one couple’s efforts to free a whitetail buck that had become "locked up" with an opponent. These photos struck a chord with people, many of whom applauded Terry and Sherri Bolding for sawing off the dead buck’s antlers and giving the surviving buck another shot at life.

Cheer all you want, but there are some hunters who have no qualms about shooting a buck that’s hopelessly entangled with a rival. As Exhibit A, check out the video clip linked here (which contains content graphic enough that we didn’t want to post it on this page). Filmed in Wisconsin this fall, the encounter shows a pair of bucks locked up in a streambed. They were found by a pair of bowhunters (one obviously armed with a video camera) who decided to shoot one of the fighters and tag him. The other buck was eventually killed and tagged by another bowhunter.

Exhibit B was sent to me this week by a reader/hunter who grew up in North Dakota, but now lives in Wyoming. According to the accompanying message, the ND hunter pictured spotted one of the bucks the day before the firearms season opener and realized it had locked horns with another whitetail. She took no action. The next morning she came back to the scene, shot one of the bucks, called a game warden, and received a special permit for the other deer.


Obviously (the Internet being what it is) I have no way of knowing if the details of this particular hunt are entirely factual. But even if they’re not, this story—and the video—bring up an interesting dilemma: Assuming it’s legal to do so, is the shooting of one (or both) locked-up bucks an ethical act?


I’d like to hear the thoughts of BuckTracker readers on this one. Though it’s stretching things to classify such a hunt as "fair chase" (locked-up bucks obviously cannot flee their pursuers, even if they are free-ranging deer), the case can surely be made that killing one or both bucks is not unethical.

Obviously, had someone not happened on the scene, Nature would have provided a much crueler fate for these animals than a bullet or an arrow. Also, consider the stress these fighters had already endured. Even if a "rescued" buck walks away, will he indeed survive…or is he little more than a dead-deer-walking? 


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference BuckTracker: Is Shooting a Locked Buck Ethical?:



I saw this video and it was disgusting that anyone would think of shooting a deer in that position.That is not hunting,the deer had no chance at all to escape.People like this give hunters a black eye.If the guy needs the meat or horns that bad he should pick up road kill and save himself some money.I've been hunting for 44 years and I would never think of doing what these guys did.


I may be a bastard for saying it but if it was in legal season I would shoot him too.
I would still have to find him, and just because they did something incredibly stupid which put them in a disadvantage in what is still fair chase in my book I would not feel that hunting season is to be given a time out for stupidity. And what if you do separate them? At what point do they again become fair game in your book? when they have gone 10 yds apart? 50 yds? 100? Or do you give then a 30 second head start? What about the guy who happens to run into one of them 5 minutes after you've done your "Rescue" thing and shoots one of them dead, do you gripe at him too? Call him a horrible slob too? What's the difference? That he didn't know? Big Deal. It's only because us humans have removed the majority of predators who would have no problem taking advantage of an easy meal that deer in this predicament would survive long enough for us hunters to find. It's nature, deal with it or quit calling yourself hunters and go join Greenpeace.


The video wouldn't play, but I think I've seen it or something like it before. I've seen 2 bucks hooking it up and I have to say - WOW! I wouldn't want to be in the middle of something like that. I am by no means a large guy and would have no business trying to separate two mature bucks. I'd just get hurt and they would still be in the same situation. Two live deer = no way would I try to step in; one live and one dead = Those I would separate, with one quick shot.


If this was in my area of Maine,I DEFINATELY know the game warden that hangs here would have shot one or both if need be if they had a big rack or were injured (he is a rack hunter),even though I called him to say there was a doe coming into my yard one winter who was missing half of her leg and she would leave a koolaid stain of blood on the snow.I wanted him to come put her down as my kids would get very sad seeing this.His response" I can't today,let nature take its course" As far as trying to seperate locked bucks..GOOD LUCK to those NOT Chicken Shit hunters,LOL !!You better pray you don't get gorged and please send us the video of your "BRAVERY";-)


Shoot the buck or bucks? Sure.

I wish I could find a doe stuck in a fence that had a tree stump nearby. She would quickly become stump broke!

Agent 47

The main issue for me is the suffering. My vote is to try to save the animal if safely possible. (Keep in mind that most animal get very aggressive when cornered and wounded so this is a tough call and most likely not possible) If that is not possible, then take them out and end their suffering. For me if I was hunting and came across ANY wounded animal that I couldn't safely help or save, I would take it out no matter what season was in or out. I know if it was me I wouldn't want to suffer or let nature take it's course so I would grant that same respect to the deer.

Mark Hansen

I feel if at all at all possible the deer should be freed.whether that mean tranquilizing, cutting horns or some way of freeing the animal(s). If the animal(s) need to be dipatched,do what we need to do. We do not need to post videos on the internet. That is extremely poor p.r. for hunters of all kinds,it makes us look pathetic.
ark in


I think it might actually be ethical to shoot them. If they were to die anyway. I agree - releasing two fghting bucks - even weakened, sounds like lunacy.

I would not consider the antlers trophies though. And hopefully the meat would not be to pumped full of adrenaline to eat.


And Mark, while tranquilizing seems a noble thought; not only would it be costly, many times experts that would do such a thing will not; for fear the animal is already to weak to "come back" after tranquilizing.


There is no sport or fair chase in taking those two locked bucks at the stream nor at the field. That is not called hunting, that is called shooting a defenseless animal that doesn't have the chance of getting away. Words can not describe how P. O ed I am right now after watching that video. They must be PROUD hunters to tell their story. Glad they worked (months of scouting, hanging multiple treestands) for those deer.


Kinda had another thought on this one. I didn't watch the video - didn't want to.

Haven't ever put one of my dogs down either - probably couldn't do it; but at times, someone has to. So I have had a couple of bad trips to the vet over the years.
The vet wouldn't use a bow, but if these guys used a gun, they could be tried for poaching.

Maybe they were going for a trophy with no qualms, which would suck - maybe they were trying to do the right thing. I could not judge them or anyone in this case without being there or knowing their mind at the time.

Was there any evidence on the video that would suggest either?


Because if they were laughing or high fiving, or smiling like they had just won the lottery - I would like to see them slapped around.
However, if they were calm and looked to have purpose and intent, and the event was lacking celebration - I would have to extend them the benefit of the doubt.
But I don't want to watch it either way.


Do you folks remember a thread on here a month or so ago about the game ranger that used his side arm to shoot the antler off one of a set of locked bucks to free them both?
If you can get that close, a .22LR will break the antler. If you are in an archery season only, you have a problem. If you don't have access to any type firearm, you have a problem.
I can guarantee you one thing right now folks, as stressed and adrenaline charged as those two deer were, that venison ain't worth the time and trouble to butcher it!
I would just have to take the chance on trying to shoot an antler loose or off!



You can get yourself killt by trying to free two locked bucks. I would kill one or both, knowing both would die an agonizing death. Don't kid yourself about what we do or apologize for it – it is killing. We connect with God's big wild scheme and in the process make things go dead. Sometimes we get to witness rare events like two bucks locked up. Most likely, it's only going to end one way. If you hadn't seen them, it would definitely only end one way.


Killing or slaughter? That's OK guys, I'll send you the video. Hmmm not one of you responded about the hunter coming back the next day to take her trophy and THEN calling the warden to get another tag. If she were so concerned about "putting them out of their misery" maybe she could have made the call the first day?


Please. Anyone who approached those deer with ideas of getting lose would be running an enormous risk of being injured themselves.

It's not hunting that we are talking about. It is killing, plain and simple; but, absolutely necessary when you consider the alternatives.

How can you possibly criticize the guys that killed them. It needed to be done, they did it.

How many of you holier than thou hunters have actually seen a coyote kill a deer?? All of you that have, jump right in and judge. The rest of you need to join us in the real world.

By the way, post the video of trying to shoot one of the horns off. Pure genius. You hit the horn, or the deer or maybe even get lucky and the bullet richochet and hits you in the horn.


i would of shot both of them because they would die anyway! if u shot one and tried to get the other one loose it could attack and kill you! so u made a good choice!

Matt in VA

Honestly guys, it's very easy sit here at a computer and say well, the hunter should have tried to free the bucks. Ethical or not, the safest option is to shoot one or both the deer. I know that if I were in that situation, I would not put my health and safety at risk to free the animals and would therefore take the animal(s) out of their misery.

Did you see those deer react when the shot happened? They were still healthly deer. Being an avid sportman, i hunt, i kill animals. But only under a fair circumstance. I would risk my own safety to free these deer- and then hunt them the next day. But kick them while they are down, thats not what hunting is about. I all for shooting an unhealthy or dieing animal to humanely put it out of its misery, but these deer where not sickly.

Michael S.

That squirting of blood somewhat disturbed me. Also, even though it doesn't seem like fair chase, it was a more humane way for the deer to die than to let nature take its slow, agonizing toll.

My two cents.


I'm not accusing the "I wouldn't shoot" group of people of being jerks, but I am somewhat amused at how some people are so determined to "give the deer a sporting chance" as they pursue it with their high-powered rifles. Maybe I'm really messed up, but I would hold no objections to reaping a little bonus venison from a buck that would have died of exhaustion anyways. There's just one rule-you've gotta be honest with how you acquired that heavy set of antlers.


I shot t his video, My friend Scott shot the buck. What we did was lawful, ethical and humane under the circumstances. We are not “lazy”. We work our tails off starting in April and all the way through till sept. Clearing land, plowing, planting, scouting and hanging stands – just like all of you. No one plans to go out and fill their tag like this. But sometimes life throws something in your lap and you have to deal with it. I have 4 kids, and Scott has two. Neither was willing to try and separate these bucks – unless we waited a day or so until they were so exhausted that it was safe – but then they would likely have died anyway.

We are not "proud" of the hunt so to speak. We didn't do anything extraordinary. We just happened onto a rare situation, and we were able to record it. But neither are we ashamed of it. We know we did the right thing - and we also know that thousands and thousands of people have enjoyed the video. Not because they enjoyed seeing the animals suffer - but because it is rare, and unusual video footage. Even most "non-hunters" understand this, and the comments on other websites, both hunting related and non-hunting related, has been overwhelmingly positive.

I am very proud of the ethics, and of the respect shown to the sport of hunting by all the hunters on TigerRidge.

We apologize to no one, and as stated before - given the same situation - we would do the same thing again.

Greg Duerr
[email protected]


Let me tell you something, Greg...you and your buddy have done nothing to be proud of...and you should apologize to all of the ethical hunters that have had the unfortunate chance to view you and your friend's hunting skill !


The choice seems rather clear here. A slow, agonizing death for the deer involved or a quick merciful one? The hunters here wisely chose the ladder.

For those who would try to free the bucks from their plight I do not question your cahones but I do question your wisdom.


Some of you think they should have unlocked these two mature bucks. If you are a true hunter you know that this is not a viable option. Shoot a horn off someone wrote! I'm sure they looked around to see if John Wayne or Chuck Norris was near by to help. Not fair chase? These bucks weren't fenced in or eating out of your backyard bird feeder, they were in the the wild. Some say it wasn't an ethical kill. Would sitting there and watching them die locked together be ethical. I think NOT. They were saved from an agonizing death. From what I have read everything was legal about it and I would have done the same. You have nothing to apoligize for.

Tattoo Contest

Send us a photo of your deer tattoo. Our pick wins this Leatherman, worth $80!

Name: Email Address: Attach photo here:
Tell us why you got this tattoo!

100 Top Public Lands
Field & Stream reporter Steven Hill spent two months interviewing state game agency officials, deer biologists, and whitetail experts to identify the absolute best public whitetail hunting grounds in the nation.

Choose a state below:

Our Blogs