Trapped deer trades antler for freedom
There’s a deer with a stubby antler running around Nevada County today, alive thanks to the precision gunnery of resident Bill Juhl.
Juhl started his morning Monday by glancing out his window. Usually, he is treated to scenes familiar to Nevada County wildlife watchers – birds, deer, rabbits and other critters grazing, gazing, and galloping.
But Monday, he saw something quite different in the yard of his Lowhills Road home.
“I looked out the window and found a buck wrapped in a Costa Rican hammock … jumping around like crazy,” Juhl said.
Not sure what to do, Juhl telephoned his friend Harry Pelton, a Grass Valley taxidermist. Pelton rushed over, and the two men stood a safe distance from the deer, trying to figure out what to do.
Believing a wildlife official would shoot the deer, they took it upon themselves to free the animal, Juhl said.
“I’ve been a hunter for my whole life, but shooting a deer in the yard, that’s not hunting,” Juhl said.
First, they considered roping the deer’s legs to immobilize it but decided that was too risky, Juhl said.
Then, Pelton devised Plan B.
“I know that some of the game parks and zoos cut off the antlers … if anything, it’s just going to give (the deer) a headache,” Pelton said.
The duo couldn’t get close enough to the bucking buck to cut the antler, but they could get close enough to the tiring beast to shoot it off, Pelton said.
So Juhl, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, pulled out his .357 Magnum, stood about 20 feet away from the ensnared deer, and shot.
The first shot missed, Pelton said.
The second shot, however, was dead-on – it sliced through the antler, freeing the deer.
“The deer expressed its eternal gratitude by leaving town in half a second flat, leaving half an antler (behind),” Juhl said.
The hammock-wrapped antler will serve as a memento to a morning Juhl isn’t likely to forget, or repeat.
“It never occurred to me that a hammock hanging between two trees could (trap a deer),” Juhl said. “I won’t leave a hammock out there any more.”
That’s exactly what Nevada County animal control officer Lt. Ron Earles said he would recommend.
His staff members have to free about four deer a year – primarily in the Lake Wildwood area – from hammocks, Earles said. Officers try to respond as quickly as possible because deer can easily break a leg or injure themselves, Earles said.
Once on the scene, they tranquilize and free the deer. Although his office is charged with caring for domestic animals, California Fish and Game wardens usually can’t respond quickly enough to free deer, Earles said.
While Juhl’s approach to freeing the deer might have worked Monday, Earles recommended calling Nevada County Animal Control at 273-2179 to report trapped deer. He advised taking down hammocks, volleyball nets and other potential deer traps when not in use.
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