My friend Ken, who has one of the coveted archery “desert” tags asked me if I wanted to go along and help him get his buck. He had been hunting these deer for close to a week and only had three days to go. He had been seeing lots of deer and quite a few bucks, but was not able to get close enough to a good one. I love to go out and watch deer with my binoculars so I decided to go.
The “desert” unit goes from where we live (Adams Road) on the West, to I-90 on the North, Mardon Reservoir (South of Moses Lake) on the East, and Frenchman Hills Road (about 5 miles South of us) on the South. A 30 min. drive from our house and we were in the heart of the Desert Unit. The sun was already high by the time we got to the big sand dune to start glassing. After about an hour of scanning the surrounding landscape and seeing no less than 4 nice bucks a few smaller ones and lots of does. Ken decided the only chance he might have of getting one of these elusive trophies (they have been hunted for over a month) would be for me to casually spook them in a direction to where he will be set up in all his camo. I walked about a half mile to another observation point (sand dune), waited for Ken to get situated (45 min.) and started my stealthy drive.
After spooking the deer in several groups, one going in the general direction of where I guessed Ken was, I decided to head a little more West after a nice 3 point with a few does. Another half on hour of making my way through the thick sage brush, I came to the top of small knoll. Off to my right toward the direction I figured Ken was I heard a strangely familiar sound. The rattling of antlers! But this is the 11th of December (post rut) and I always heard that rattling bucks works best pre-rut and peak of the rut which usually happens around the middle of November. About 100 yards in the direction of the noise, I could see the sage moving, a fleeting glimpse of antlers above it, and a small cloud of dust. To witness mature mule deer bucks fighting in the desert is on a par with witnessing a drumming ruffed grouse (which I happen to see last spring at our cabin), any big game animals mating, a grizzly or mountain lion making a kill or any other miracles of nature. The best thing about this was that I did have a camera, albeit it a point and shoot, 8 megapixel with a zoom,and I was going to see how close I could get.
I walked to with in about 70 feet and started to take pics not knowing how close I would get.
Most deer fights that I have heard about haven’t lasted long usually because one of the bucks is more dominant and the smaller one usually gives up. The first thing I noticed about this duel was that both bucks were dead even and I’m sure neither one wanted to surrender. The other prominent thing I noticed was that they didn’t butt their heads together as sheep do, but interlock their antlers and turn it into a hardcore shoving contest.
I became uncomfortable when one of the bucks became more aggressive and pushed his combatant to with in 10 to 12 feet of me (I had started backing up) They stepped apart, one realized I was standing there and ran with the other giving chase. They aparently had not settled the dispute and promptly started fighting again 50 to 60 feet away.
Where this duel took place was more dusty, you will see in the photos. I would say the fight lasted at least 5 minutes maybe more. It truly is the most amazing thing I have witnessed in the wild and to be fortunate enough to have my camera was quite a blessing.
Ken, I found out later had watched the whole thing from about 80 yards thinking he would never get close to them. He was excited but a little bummed when hearing of how close I was to them.

Two muleys battle it out on the Southwest Desert.