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March 21, 2022

Sharpshooting Pennsylvania game warden fires shot that frees buck with antler stuck in net

The deer was unharmed, and the rescue and aftermath were captured in photos

Wildlife Deer
Buck Game Pennsylvania main Patrick Scott/Pennsylvania Game Commission via Facebook

Moments before this buck ran free, a Pennsylvania Game Commission warden successfully shot oof the animal's antler, which had been trapped in netting. The shot severed the antler but the deer was unharmed.

A buck whose antler got tangled in a net in Berks County recently was freed with a little ingenuity by a Pennsylvania Game Commission warden and a perfectly aimed shot from his long gun.

The game commission shared photos of the deer's rescue on Facebook on Monday. The exact time and location where the incident occurred were not disclosed. One of the photos captures the incredible moment when the blast fired by the warden struck the deer's antler, severing it.

Buck Shot PennsylvaniaPatrick Scott/Pennsylvania Game Commission

Pennsylvania Game Commission warden Ryan Zawada fires a perfect shot at a buck's trapped antler.

Officials learned about the buck after someone reported that it appeared to be stuck. Warden Ryan Zawada was called to the scene to assist the animal.

🦌 This buck recently shed an antler in a nontypical way. State Game Warden Ryan Zawada recently responded to quite the...

Posted by Pennsylvania Game Commission on Monday, March 21, 2022

"Given the deer's state of distress upon arrival, SGW Zawada was nervous that chemical immobilization was not a safe option to remove the deer from the net," Pennsylvania Game Commission officials wrote in the Facebook post. "He decided the best option was to shoot the caught antler off. After the shot, one antler lighter, the buck ran off unharmed."

The game commission could not immediately answer what type of firearm and ammunition were used.

Male deer, or bucks, shed their antlers each year, typically between January and April after the mating season concludes and their testosterone levels drop. The antlers fall from the pedicles where they are mounted and the growth process begins anew, with more elaborate structures and points as the buck ages. 

The shedding of antlers does not cause the animals any pain. In the growth phase, antlers are covered in a soft velvet membrane that provides the nutrients required to build the bone mass over a period of two to four months. As testosterone levels increase, the veins and arteries around the velvet constrict and cut off blood supply. Bucks rub their antlers against trees to strip away the velvet before mating season.

The buck's appearance suggests it is a relatively young animal.

As impressive as Zawada's shot was, there are a number of videos online showing the even dicier situation that can occur when two bucks get their antlers entangled during clashes to assert dominance. In these cases, one or both bucks will often die unless something is done to help.

One of the most skilled displays of marksmanship happened outside Calgary in Alberta, Canada in 2020, when a wildlife officer measured up a shot during a tense battle between two bucks who had gotten stuck together.

Another incident happened last winter in Kansas, where a game warden also was able to hit his target and save the two deer.

Kudos to Zawada for nailing a tough shot to help the Berks County buck without putting himself or anyone else in danger. It takes a ton of skill and confidence to pull that off without a hitch.