You’ll have to excuse Jason Thomas if he couldn’t help letting an expletive slip out on Tuesday morning.
He simply couldn’t believe his eyes as he witnessed a knock-down, drag-out confrontation between two Maine big woods bucks.
The owner of Thomas Builders was working with his crew at a home site in Rangeley when they heard a clattering and banging on the other side of the house. Thomas came around the corner to see the two deer battling for supremacy.
“I’m an avid hunter. They both would have [gone] well over 200 pounds, dressed out,” he said.
Thomas had the presence of mind to pull out his cell phone and capture some of the fight. The animals locked antlers and crashed into each other repeatedly, straining to gain the advantage.
“I have food plots, tractors and shooting shacks up here behind my place [in Starks],” he said. “Never in my entire life of hunting have I ever seen one fighting like that.
“I hardly could focus on working the rest of the day,” Thomas said.
Folks who have watched the video were surprised to see this kind of deer behavior in January, long after the time for peak rutting activity has passed.
“Bucks may continue to fight into the winter while they have antlers, and it would carry the same meaning as a fight in November: asserting dominance,” said Nathan Bieber, deer biologist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. “Most of the aggressive and drawn-out fighting occurs during peak rut, though.”
Thomas theorized that the bucks may be pursuing a doe that was not bred during the fall and has again come into estrus, leading to their dispute.
“It’s possible,” Bieber said. “Bucks are not very tolerant of one another while courting a receptive doe.”
Some people have noted that the bucks still have their antlers, since male deer lose them during the winter months. Bieber said that dynamic is quite variable.
“It’s not unusual for a buck to still have its antlers this time of year,” he said. “Some will start shedding in late December or January, but then others may not shed until March or even a bit later.”
The experience enjoyed by Thomas is one that many hunters never get to witness. Some people report having heard the clattering of antlers or seeing young deer sparring, but few have the opportunity to be present for such a hard-fought battle.
“I went back out this morning in the same spot and thought that I may see one dead or something. That’s how violent it was,” Thomas said.
The aftermath of a battle between two bucks on Tuesday morning in Rangeley. Credit: Courtesy of Jason Thomas
He took photos of the area where the deer had been, which showed the snow all chewed up and some bare spots on the ground. He still marvels at the scene.
“It was awesome. It made my whole hunting season,” Thomas said.
Many thanks to Jason for sharing this awesome video with Bangor Daily News readers!
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