Watch: Locked-Up Buck Sheds Its Antlers, Freeing Itself from Dead Rival

Shed hunter Cole Stoner got the show of a lifetime when he came across an Ontario buck struggling to untangle himself from a half-eaten buck
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A living buck drags a dead buck around by the antlers, and a shed hunter crouches next to the shed antlers and dead buck.
Stoner's experience can only be described as once-in-a-lifetime. Photographs courtesy of Cole Stoner

A hunter and shed enthusiast from southern Ontario was shed hunting on Feb. 5 when he came across a sight that rarely occurs much beyond the rut: two whitetail bucks locked up at the antlers. As sometimes happens with bad lockups, the victorious buck was dragging the shredded remains of a dead buck around. The deer was struggling to move through the woods and appeared skinnier than a buck of his size should be. But the lockup wouldn’t last for much longer.

Cole Stoner, 28, was headed back to his car after a successful morning of shed hunting. He had already found a matched set from an 8-point when he stumbled across the jaw-dropping scene around noon. At first he thought he caught two bucks mid-fight, then realized one was dead.

“One antler from the deer that was alive was behind the dead buck’s rack, and the other antler had a weird fork that was actually in the dead deer’s eye socket, with about two inches of penetration,” Stoner tells Outdoor Life. “I don’t know if that’s what finished him or if it was just him getting tired out and giving up.”

Stoner’s mind instantly switched to thinking of ways to help the remaining buck. It seemed like the only way to get the two unstuck was to catch the deer, which he’d need help to accomplish. At first he called his dad, then his friends who were also out shed hunting at the time. Keeping his distance, he slowly backed the buck toward a big rock pile, where it might be easier to corner the deer.

But as Stoner ushered the buck toward the rocks, the buck started thrashing around extra hard, clearly disturbed by his situation. As he shook his head violently, he knocked it against one of the rocks — instantly shedding one of his antlers right when he needed to most. 

It took mere seconds for the buck to dislodge its remaining antler from the deadhead, leaving the carcass in a heap beside the shed antler. As the buck took off, he stopped and looked back in Stoner’s direction then smashed his head against a tree, shedding the other antler. Stoner couldn’t believe his luck. 

Cole Stoner with whitetail shed antlers.
Stoner collected his second set of shed antlers for the day.

Photograph courtesy of Cole Stoner

A dead whitetail buck with a set of shed antlers.
The dead buck finally dislodged from the living buck’s antlers.

Photograph courtesy of Cole Stoner

“I was shaking, I was freaking out so bad,” Stoner says. “I even teared up a couple of times thinking about it.” 

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He collected both sheds and called off his friends. The sheds will go in a glass display box. 

“That one moment of him stopping and looking at me, it just felt like he said ‘thank you,’” Stoner says. “Then him giving me that other antler, I just couldn’t believe my eyes when that happened.”