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  • Writer's picturePatrick Durkin

Bowhunter's Buck had 25 Feet of Rope in its Antlers

If you live in Dodge County, Wisconsin, and you’re wondering which no-good neighbor stole your backyard clothesline, don’t start pointing fingers just yet.

Or maybe you think you have a trespasser in your favorite Dodge County deer woods. After all, when you reached your treestand in late October, you cursed the unknown jerk who stole the pull-up rope for your bow.

Take a deep breath and count to 10 before confronting anyone. Your neighbors might be innocent. They won’t appreciate being falsely accused of theft. They might even ask you to consider what seems impossible.

You know that 10-point buck you were admiring in late summer and early fall? He might be your thief. If so, you’ll never again see your rope. Jon Braun of Marshall now has it, and he’s not giving it back. He found the rope wrapped around, over, under and through that big buck’s antlers after arrowing the deer Nov. 5.

Braun has no idea how the buck weaved that rope so tightly around its main antler beams and behind its brow tines, but he’s leaving the rope just as he found it. After butchering the buck, he took its hide and head to his taxidermist for a full-shoulder mount without touching the rope.

Who wouldn’t? It’s not every day you arrow a 10-point buck that apparently hog-tied its own antlers. Braun is certain it’s the most unique buck he’ll ever shoot with a gun or bow.

“The taxidermist asked if I wanted to cut off the rope, but no way,” he said. “The antlers have a crab claw on the left main beam, but that rope is what makes it so special.”

Braun became aware of the buck after it appeared in a trail-camera photo Oct. 30 on his cousin’s property 1.5 miles from Braun’s marsh and woodlot. They could see “lots of trash” in the buck’s antlers, but the nighttime photo was too blurry to identify the clutter. Soon after, a trail camera 2 miles away at the edge of Braun’s property photographed the buck again, but he still couldn’t figure out what was in its antlers.

“We thought maybe it was baling twine that farmers use for round bales, but we were just guessing,” Braun said. “We named him the ‘Rope Buck,’ and started checking all of our older trail-cam photos to see if we’d gotten other pictures of him without the rope. We didn’t find anything of him before he got all tangled up.”

Braun considers himself more of a waterfowler than a bowhunter, and spent the morning of Nov. 5 hunting ducks with his son Remington. They shot enough ducks to stay busy cleaning and packaging through the lunch hour. They decided to go bowhunting that afternoon after doing some target practice. He took Remington to a treestand where deer had been most active, and then went over the hill to another treestand he hadn’t used this year.

Braun said a doe and spike buck came by and disappeared into an uncut cornfield between him and his son. He didn’t see anything else until dusk approached. That’s when a big-bodied deer walked up a fence line 200 yards away. The deer kept scent-checking the ground, making Braun suspect it was a buck. He saw antlers when it drew within 100 yards.

Braun realized it was the Rope Buck when it passed through an opening, giving him a clear look at its head. He let it walk within 20 yards before drawing his bow, aiming and shooting.

He thought he made a good hit, and returned two hours later with his son to trail the buck with their headlamps. Unfortunately, after trailing it 100 yards they heard it walking ahead of them. They backed out quietly and left, deciding to wait till dawn to continue tracking. Overnight temperatures dipped into the 30s, so he wasn’t worried about meat spoilage.

Before resuming the search Nov. 6, Braun called a friend who owns a deer-tracking dog. After searching the next morning for two hours with the dog, they didn’t get any farther than the night before. But the Brauns didn’t quit searching. He called a neighbor for permission to search his land. The man volunteered to help, and at 11 a.m. they began a systematic grid search that eventually took them near the far edge of the neighbor’s land.

While following a well-used deer trail, they discussed other possibilities for where the buck might have gone. As Braun approached a site where he spotted a big, wide-antlered buck two years earlier, he saw a bunch of strings sticking up out of the grass. A closer look revealed antlers and his buck lying dead.

“He went about 500 yards from where I shot him,” Braun said. “He walked a straight line much of the way, but then turned off. We spent a lot of time searching in grids off that straight line. That’s why we didn’t find him right away. I did a lot of screaming, hooting and hollering when we found him.”

Having solved the trailing puzzle, they studied the knotted tangle of rope in its antlers. “It had all sorts of loops, knots and tight coils,” Braun said. “I have no idea how it got everything so tightly wrapped up and tangled. We could see it had kept rubbing trees because all the rope was pushed up behind its brow tines. There has to be at least 20 to 25 feet tangled up in there.”

Braun still isn’t sure where the buck came from or whose rope it procured. “We’ve asked all our neighbors if they’re missing any rope, or if they have trail-cam photos of him,” he said. We haven’t learned anything new.”

Jon Braun of Marshall, Wisconsin, arrowed this 10-point buck Nov. 5 in Dodge County. — Jonathan Braun photos

Jon Braun estimates his buck has 20 to 25 feet of rope tangled in its antlers.

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