The Story Behind the Drowning Buck Ax Rescue


Anter-locked deer are an uncommon sight for hunters, and a swimming pair are rarer still. But when Indiana hunter Adam and his father Charlie Anderson encountered just that, they made use of a boat and a splitting maul to free one deer from a watery grave. A video recording of the rescue was made and posted to YouTube, where it quickly went viral.

“I had never seen anything like it,” Adam Anderson told OutdoorHub over the phone.

His father was the first to find the deer, trapped on a small island in a pond near the Andersons’ White County farm on November 5. Charlie Anderson had been hunting earlier in the day, as he usually does before he returns to his clinic, where he treats animals as veterinarian. After seeing the morose antler-locked buck on the island, he quickly put his appointments on hold and gave Adam a call.

“The deer were already in the water by the time I got there,” Adam said.

Adam Anderson threw a saw and splitting maul into his car before he drove to the pond. When he arrived, he found that one of the bucks had already perished, and the other was nearing the point of exhaustion. Although the water was not deep, the deer stood a chance of tiring out and drowning.

However, Adam said that the water actually worked for the rescuers instead of against them. If the surviving buck remained on the island, it would have been much more dangerous to approach it. Adam speculated that they would have to use a rope to keep the animal from moving too much.

“We could have hurt the deer even further,” he shared.

The rescuers—which included Adam, his father, and several of their friends—planned on pushing the deer to deeper waters where the buck had more room to maneuver. The Andersons piled into a small boat and sidled up alongside the struggling buck. Adam began sawing away at the rack. He had a rough time at it, due partly to the saw being better suited to wood and ceramic, as well as the odd angle at which the bucks had entangled their headgear.

“The way they were locked, there was no way to cut them. They had to come apart or be broken,” Adam said.

And that was when the splitting maul came out. The buck’s natural reaction to the rescue was to try and kick Adam in the face. It just goes to show that even when exhausted, submerged up to the neck in cold water, and connected to a dead animal its own weight, bucks are not quitters.

“You don’t see the entire video, which is about 30 minutes,” Adam explained. “There were some parts where I almost got kicked. One time I almost got kicked in the face and the other missed my ribs.”

After that, Adam learned to keep a good distance.

“At the time I wasn’t really thinking about it,” Adam said. “I was focused on the task and doing what I got to do. Whenever a leg comes flying at you, though, you get a little bit scared. But it wasn’t really until the end that you realize it. Like hunting, you can control your emotions when you’re taking the actual shot. It’s when you’re done that it hits you.”

Adam kept working on the rack, smashing bits away at a time. Bucks are strong animals, perhaps doubly so during the rut. Adam said he is thankful he escaped unscathed.

“It kicked the side of the boat just underneath the lip, if it had been a little bit higher there would’ve been no way that I wouldn’t have a broken rib. Deer are strong. You can punch somebody in the ribs and it might break one, but deer have those small, tight hooves,” he shared.

Eventually he was able to break enough antler so the buck could swim, and eventually run, to safety. The animal did not bother looking back from shore, but instead fled to the safety of the woods. As for the hunters, they manage to recover the other, deceased buck and prevent it from going to waste. Adam said he boiled down the skull for a European mount and even retrieved the pieces of antler broken in the rescue. The missing tines have since been glued back on.

Adam added that he is thinking about also mounting the splitting maul alongside the deer.

You can see the video of the rescue below:

For a similar antler-locked buck story, read here about two hunters in Oklahoma and their experience.

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