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Trophy Button Buck Set Free

Button Buck trapped in Colleton County fence, before being set free.

The first really cold weather of the Fall means that most deer hunters will return to the woods, free to wear layers of camo clothing to ward off the chill in the air. Deer movement is enhanced this same time of year due to factors like the rut, and the need to forage more in direct relation to the temperature drop. As the chance increases for hunters and deer to cross paths, so does the traffic at venison processors, and the chance of big bucks arriving at the taxidermist. The 2019 deer season brought a different kind of trophy into my lifetime of deer hunting experiences when I found a young button buck seemingly unharmed but trapped inside two sections of hog wire fence, and in need of my assistance.
Part of the history of rural Colleton County is that farmers and small landowners would keep their cows fenced into their woodlands, allowing them to graze on natural vegetation. In today’s modern practices, cows are fenced into pasture land where they are sure to receive proper food, water, and medicine. Although the old woodland fence is no longer in use to restrain cattle, remnants of the fence network remain intact. Like so many things from the days of home place farming, the old fence was built to last, and the fat-lightered fence posts remain strong today. During a late October afternoon walk along one old fence line, I found my trophy button buck inside two adjacent sections of hog-wire fence, that hemmed him in like a pen.
One section of the fence was 12-inches higher than the other, and it looks to me like the young buck tried to jump the fence, clearing one side but somehow coming down between the two sections. As the young buck tested the fence, pushing to one side and then to the other, it may have made the fence bow out a bit to the sides. That same activity may have made the two sections of fence draw closer at the top, above the head of the young deer with short legs, thus blocking any line of sight that would suggest to it that an upward jump would be fruitful. Darkness was coming on quickly, and despite not knowing how the button buck got inside that section of the fence, I figured I would go grab the fence and pull it apart and free the deer.
Down on my hands and knees to crawl through the undergrowth and brush, I was getting face to face with the young buck. What had been a docile creature standing still turned into snorting and charging young buck full of fight, and I quickly backed out of there, realizing that one of us would likely be hurt in an instant without a better rescue plan in place. After the closer inspection of the button buck and the fence, I could tell that the ground under the animal had hardly been disturbed by the hooves of the small deer, revealing to me that it had not been there long at all. I walked away from the button buck to collect my thoughts, and checked back on it at hard dark, and was delighted to see it instinctively bedded down for the night.
My grandmother used to joke about me having to wrestle with a buck one day during my hunting exploits. Could the trapped button buck be that scenario? Drawing on all my experience as a woodsman, I recognized this as once in a lifetime territory, and that returning in the morning to free the young buck would be the best course of action. The possibility that his buck could be newly orphaned made me surer that I would do whatever it takes to set him back on a natural path to becoming a mature buck one day. I decided that I would need to call a friend to help me, thinking that one man could deal with the buck while the other cuts with the fence. My call went out to veteran cattleman Royce Herndon, and to his credit, he agreed to come and meet me at 8 a.m. the following morning.
The weather was clear and crisp as we walked the fence line, approaching the area where the button buck was being held in place. Just then, we heard some movement in the brush ahead, and Herndon bristled for a moment, and then a rabbit jumped across the land, scurrying away. “I thought that deer might be coming on out for a second there,” said Herndon. I directed him to look ahead 30-yards, and he saw the young buck already standing and gazing in our direction. The dirt in between the two sections of the fence was now exposed, showing signs of some restless back and forth motion from the button buck. After making another show of Bucky behavior towards us, the young buck settled down.
Herndon took his wire cutting tool out and went towards one of the two fence posts that were holding that old fence so firmly. He slowly cut the wire fence and began to peel it back so that the buck could walk out. Just then that button buck decided to have another try at going through the fence rather than exit using our strategy. That young buck became exhausted, likely needing a drink of water by now, and sort of slumped down to the ground. We peeled that old fence way back so that even that young buck could sense it was free. The button buck acted unaware it was free of the fence, and the three of us sat there for a minute, wondering what could happen next.
With slobber dangling from its chin, that button buck stood back up and started acting like it did not fear the two men standing near it. “Look at him coming back to life now,” said Herndon, a lifelong trophy buck hunter. The buck moved out of the fence line into the open woods and paused again, no longer under any stress. “Seeing this makes my day, and I’m so glad you called me to come help. If everyone cared for wildlife as you do, Jeff, then Colleton County would be a better place.” Watching that white-tailed deer walk off and disappear into the woods, it felt like a part of God’s plan, and I remain thankful for my trophy button buck experience.

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at LowcountryOutdoors.com

Jeff Dennis
Jeff Dennis, Contributor (380 Posts)

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com