The Blanchettes have made an annual deer hunting trip to the family’s camp in the Katahdin Iron Works area for more than 20 years.

But no matter how long their tradition continues, they’re going to have a tough time topping the incredible experience Adam Blanchette of Lebanon had last week.

On Veterans Day, he was hunting some familiar skidder roads in an area where the group has seen many deer in the past. While scanning the landscape, he noticed movement.

“Out of the corner of my eye, I catch something at ground level, flickering. It was almost like a fern,” Blanchette said. “Then, 10 seconds later, it would move again.”

He couldn’t make sense of what he was seeing, so he began walking in that direction. Finally, he knew he was looking at a deer hoof.

Adam Blanchette of Lebanon came upon these two bucks while hunting on Veterans Day in the Katahdin Iron Works region. The deer were pinned to the ground after their antlers became intertwined and the antler of one deer became lodged under a tree root. Credit: Courtesy of Adam Blanchette

“I looked through my scope and, sure enough, it’s a deer laying on its back. All I can see is it kicking its back leg up, then dropping it back down,” Blanchette said.

He texted his brother, Daniel Blanchette, to tell him he thought he might be watching a deer dying.

Adam Blanchette moved closer and eventually realized that there actually were several deer legs at the base of a spruce tree. Finally, he got the full picture.

“I can see that it’s two big, beautiful Maine bucks, all entangled, locked up,” he said. “One is facing down, the other one is facing straight up in the air.”

At that point, one of the bucks senses Blanchette’s presence and begins to struggle wildly, but it cannot escape.

The antlers of the two bucks become inextricably entangled during a fight for mating season dominance. Somehow, they wound up pinned to the ground, side by side, when an antler beam from one of the deer slid under a tree root and trapped them.

“It was amazing. I was just dumbfounded,” said Adam Blanchette, who took a photo of the scene. “I’m like, this is unbelievable, you just don’t see this.”

He could tell by the unnatural position of its head that one of the bucks, the one with the snared antler, was dead. The other was unable to free itself.

These two bucks were discovered pinned to the ground, with their antlers interlocked, by hunter Adam Blanchette of Lebanon. He shot the living 9-point buck (top), but the 10-pointer was found dead. Credit: Courtesy of Adam Blanchette

Blanchette walked closer, watching in disbelief, but knew what he had to do.

“I looked down at him and I said, ‘I’m sorry,’ and I said it right out loud, and I shot him,” Blanchette said.

It was a solemn moment, rather than one filled with the celebratory emotions that a deer hunter usually experiences.

“It was bittersweet. It’s almost emotional. You feel bad,” he said.

Blanchette couldn’t help but wonder whether he might have saved the buck from a more excruciating death, possibly being attacked by coyotes that came upon the scene.

It was then he reached out to his father, Paul Blanchette, his brother Daniel Blanchette, and the other hunters to come check out the “mind-blowing” scene.

The buck he shot was a 9-pointer that had one of its brow tines broken off during the fight. The other deer, a 10-pointer, also snapped off one of its antler tines.

Amazingly, Daniel Blanchette was able to find the broken brow tine at the scene of what must have been a tremendous battle between the two bucks.

“If you saw the area that they destroyed, it was crazy,” Adam Blanchette said.

The 9-pointer’s surroyal tines, those farthest from its head, crossed each other in the front and were only separated by an inch or so.

“It’s such a unique rack,” Adam Blanchette said, stressing that when he first looked down at the interlocked antlers, he couldn’t tell which antlers belonged to which buck.

He said the antler configuration played a key role in the deer’s inability to extricate themselves once they were intertwined.

Adam Blanchette of Lebanon came upon these two bucks, pinned to the ground with their antlers entangled, during a recent hunting trip in the Katahdin Iron Works area. Credit: Courtesy of Adam Blanchette

The next call was to the Maine Warden Service, which dispatched Paul Mason to the scene. Mason estimated that the deceased deer, which was already bloated in the warm weather, likely had been dead 24 to 30 hours.

“To think about that other poor deer, laying on its back for that long, struggling to try and free itself, was wild,” Adam Blanchette said.

Mason gave Adam Blanchette a permit to legally possess the head and antlers from the previously deceased deer.

“I want to have the deer mounted and I want them to be mounted locked together like we found them,” Adam Blanchette said.

Once they had taken lots of photos, the hunters needed several minutes to forcibly separate the interlocked antlers of the two bucks.

Since the carcass on the 10-pointer was already spoiled, they weren’t able to salvage the cape. Luckily for Adam Blanchette, his father-in-law is a taxidermist and will be able to find a suitable cape for the rotten deer’s antlers so they can be displayed in the position they were found.

Then the work began. It took the group three hours to drag the deer, which dressed out at 184.5 pounds, more than a half-mile over blowdowns and slash, around stumps, and back to the road.

Adam Blanchette said it was meaningful to harvest the deer while carrying his dad’s favorite hunting rifle, a Remington .30-06, Model 742.

Adam Blanchette of Lebanon poses with the 9-point buck he harvested (left), which had its antlers entangled with the 10-point buck shown on the right, which was discovered dead. Credit: Courtesy of Paul Blanchette

Daniel Blanchette received another surprise when he was contacted by someone who had seen his Facebook post about the deer. The man, who had a trail camera in the vicinity, had photos of Adam Blanchette’s 9-pointer.

The scenario might not have ever been discovered had he not been holding out. Adam Blanchette was out bowhunting near his home in late October and spent an hour watching a 6-pointer from only 13 yards away.

Rather than shoot it, he took a couple of cell phone videos. He opted to let it walk in the hope his oldest son might have a chance to harvest it.

“I wanted to be able to have my buck tag to go to camp,” he said.

Adam Blanchette never could have imagined how his season would go down, but he will look back on his bizarre experience with a sense of appreciation.

“It was awesome to be able to do it with my dad, my brother and my friends,” he said. “We were able to enjoy seeing something that we’ll probably never, ever, see again.”

As for bragging rights?

“I keep telling everyone at camp, it’s going to be a hard one to beat, because I got a 19-pointer,” Adam Blanchette said, bursting into laughter.

Pete Warner

Pete graduated from Bangor High School in 1980 and earned a B.S. in Journalism (Advertising) from the University of Maine in 1986. He grew up fishing at his family's camp on Sebago Lake but didn't take...