Hayden resident recalls discovery of locked deer antlers
Growing up I lived on a cattle and sheep ranch in Northwest Colorado.
In the mid-1960s, Moffat County was overrun by jackrabbits, and like most teenage boys, jackrabbit hunting was one of my obsessions.
My parents would encourage my brother and I to hunt rabbits whenever we wanted.
The rabbits would eat into the stacks of baled hay and undermine the bottom row of bales considerably.
One weekend, I made a trip to the hayshed about a mile south of the ranch house on the Williams Fork River.
With a “22” rifle in hand and plenty of rabbits in the nearby brush, I was in the process of dispatching excess rabbits when I noticed something unfamiliar.
On the east end of a snow covered alfalfa field was a large dark object next to the boundary fence.
I had to investigate, so with rifle in hand I walked across the field.
As I approached the strange object, it looked like a bull elk.
I could see antlers and a big body.
It didn’t move, but its head was still up.
I came closer and was a bit nervous.
I just had to see what this strange animal was with its head up but motionless.
With my “22” in hand and getting close, I could make out a buck deer and another one.
I thought they were still alive and had become entangled in the fence.
After making double sure these animals were not alive, the whole scene became apparent.
Horns locked tight and evidence of a battle to the death.
The field west of the bucks was all torn up, tracks in the snow with skids and drags every which way finally leading to the fence where one of the bucks had fallen through.
That is where, after a furious attempt to separate themselves, wet from snow and sweat and cold from a bitter December night, they succumbed to the elements, I believed rather quickly.
I made my way back to the ranch in good time.
I knew that this was going to be a real find that people were going to like to see.
Plans were made back home with the family to drive back to the hayfield to check out my story.
My mom suggested that my Uncle Kenny Davidson and his family would like to go along and we waited for them.
With cameras in hand, we all piled into the pickups and made our way through the snow to the alfalfa field.
After the picture taking and detective work was done to figure out what had taken place, we all headed back to the ranch headquarters.
Someone suggested we call the newspaper to see if they would like to take photographs and they did, of course.
I wanted to have the animals mounted, but the family thought it might be very expensive and after a call to Craig Sports, it was decided that they could be displayed in the Carroll Grounds store (Craig Sports), if he would mount them.
After many years, the horns could not be located, but were never mounted.
Sometime in the 1980s, the horns were located and, at that time, they were donated to the Museum of Northwest Colorado.
This is a good ending to a little piece of Moffat County history as the horns are where many people will be able to enjoy them.
Was I lucky?
Lucky for the excitement of an unlikely find and now I’m excited that many people will be able to see an unlikely part of nature.
A part of nature that is harsh, but a part of nature that makes wild animals stronger in the long run, able to pass on to the next generation stronger genes, even if things sometimes go awry.
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