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Deer can be deadly

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Africa has a beast known as ‘Black Death.’ No, it isn’t the plague or other disease. It is an animal. The Cape buffalo is notoriously ornery and vindictive, and if one cannot handle the situation, it brings a whole gang along with it.

YouTube started in 2005. In 2007 a video hit called Battle at Kruger where a young buffalo was taken by several lions. An older mature buffalo came to free the young, but was chased off by the lions. Meanwhile, the young buffalo tried to make an escape only to be grabbed by   the lions again. To add another twist, a crocodile had joined in by this time and was playing tug-of-war with the lions for the buffalo. Currently the video, one of the first viral videos mind you, has over 81 million views.

Just as the lions won the battle, the older buffalo returned. This time however, he brought several hundred of his friends and the lions didn’t stand a chance. Lion after lion was thrown into the air and run off and the young buffalo rejoined his herd.

The Cape buffalo has been known to take large-caliber hits from hunters, run into the brush, circle around the hunter and attack from behind. There is no quit in Black Death.

Any animal can be dangerous, and a wounded animal even moreso.

One of the things taught to new hunters and reinforced in hunter education classes is to always approach downed game cautiously. Just because the creature’s eyes are closed or you do not see them breathing does not mean they are dead. 

I once took a deer with the bow on a Sunday. I waited about 30 minutes before coming down from the stand. The tracking was easy enough; the deer was in a bean field. While I couldn’t see the deer from where I was, I did see it run about 50 yards before going down, and the deer never got back up.

As I approached the deer, I held my bow out in front of me and approached from behind. I didn’t see any breathing. I nudged it twice with the bow on the rear end and the deer took a deep breath.

Fortunately, the deer did not get up. I called the local game warden and let him know the deer was alive and asked if I would be allowed to put it down with the handgun I had in my truck (we were not allowed to use firearms as it was still bow season only) to put it out of any pain, to which I was permitted to do so.

In Arkansas last week, a hunter, and eventually anyone who catches some of the smaller stories on the news, found out how important it is to approach downed game cautiously.

A man, who was regarded as a seasoned hunter, took a whitetail deer with his muzzleloader. He exited his box stand and went over to the deer to confirm it was dead.

It was not.

The deer sprung and attacked the hunter, puncturing him with its antlers. The hunter called his family and medical personnel and a helicopter was dispatched to the scene. When first responders arrived, the man was no longer breathing and the copter was called off. He died from his wounds.

The deer was tracked with dogs but could not be found. It was not known if the deer survived.

One thing that I took notice of in the story was the muzzleloader was found leaning against his box stand. The man didn’t have anything to prod the deer with, and it is believed he likely checked the deer from head on to see how big the deer’s antlers were.

No, a whitetail is not nearly as deadly as a Cape buffalo. But, caution should be taken in all circumstances.

Bill Howard is an avid bowhunter and outdoorsman. He teaches hunter education (IHEA) and bowhunter education (IBEP) in North Carolina. He is a member of North Carolina Bowhunters Association and Pope & Young, and is an official measurer for both.