JOHNSON LAKE, Neb. — Avid sportsman Todd Stolley of Johnson Lake was deer hunting by himself in western Gosper County Tuesday morning and came upon a scene he never expected to see.
Two full-grown deer were fighting.
“I’ve seen such things on television, but I never expected to see something like this in person,” Stolley said. “I watched them for 15 to 20 minutes before I realized their antlers were locked. They weren’t able to separate themselves.”
He used his cell phone to call longtime friend and hunting companion Joe Riskowski of Omaha, who was renting a cabin at Sundy’s Inlet bar and grill at Johnson Lake.
“’Todd told me, ‘You’re not going to believe what I’m watching. You better get over here,’ ” Riskowski said.
The deer disappeared over a hill, but the two men soon found them. It was clear one of the deer had died. The other deer was exhausted and still struggling to free itself. It was clear to the two men that it probably never would.
The humane thing to do was to shoot the surviving deer, which Stolley did.
Uncertain of what to do, the men called Matt Andrews, a conservation officer with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. After examining the deer and learning what had happened, Andrews said nothing illegal had been done because Riskowki had not filled his deer permit, and the deer Stolley shot filled his permit.
In his 20 years working as conservation officer, Andrews said he’s seen 10 to 12 instances of deer being locked together.
“I would say about every couple years (it happens),” he said. “It’s not real common to find them while they’re actually locked together and still alive. Usually, one’s dead and one’s alive.”
Stolley and Riskowski tried to separate the deer they found but couldn’t and realized they wouldn’t be able to without cutting away the antlers.
The carcasses were taken to Sundy’s where Stolley and Riskowski tried in vain to separate them. The heads were severed and their bodies taken to Elwood for processing.
The racks on each deer were four-by-fours, indicating they were probably about the same age.
“I’m going to have them mounted just as they were found,” Stolley said.