FULLERTON, N.D. — Deer opener in North Dakota took on a different twist for one lucky deer this year as it actually ended up owing its life to hunters. Jeff Day of West Fargo was visiting his farmstead near Fullerton, N.D., when he came across a group of duck hunters who needed his help.
"I and the dog were out driving around looking for a pheasant when I met this young man," said Jeff Day, a 64-year-old hunter from West Fargo. "He asked me if I knew anyone who could help get a deer off a slough that was iced over."
Initially, Day said he instructed the young men to call North Dakota Game and Fish Department because it has certain rules and regulations for approaching or dealing with wildlife. So, the four young hunters from Webster, Wis. — Austin Smiley, Nathan Stadler, Austin Moser, and Harlo Olson — followed Day back towards his farmstead and the slough where the deer was stranded.
Day passed the hunters as he intended to go back to his farm, but he couldn't get the image of the deer stranded in the middle of frozen slough out of his mind.
"I thought of how the deer would be feed for the coyotes once nightfall hits," he said. "The thought didn’t sit well with me with the coyotes feasting on a live deer."
At 9:30 a.m., Day turned his jeep around in the middle of a gravel road. When he returned, he saw the deer laying on its side, too weak to get up.
"Every once in a while the deer will lift their head up," Day said. "But she wouldn't make any attempt to stand up."
This is when Day decided to act. He approached the four Wisconsin hunters and proposed a plan.
Day offered his Jon boat — a flat-bottomed boat constructed of aluminum, fiberglass, or wood with one, two, or three bench seats — as a way to evenly balance their weight. Two hunters would use the boat to skate over the ice to retrieve the deer while the others would wait on the far shore, about 250 yards from the deer.
"They carried the Jon boat out onto the thin ice and slowly pushed it out to the deer," Day said. "(They) slipped a loose noose around its neck and pulled it to the shoreline."
It took 30 minutes for the hunters to reach the deer.
"When they reached the doe, (they) slipped on the rope to the bleating deer and started their return trip across the ice, pushing the boat with one leg in the boat and one leg on the ice," Day said.
When they reached the shore, the hunters carefully carried the deer away from the ice.
"She quietly laid there resting while I soothed her from her adventure and rescue by these outstanding young outdoorsmen," Day said.
After a couple of minutes, the deer stood up and left her rescuers. While some people may be surprised by this story, Day isn't.
"All people (non-hunters) see are photos of hunters with dead animals," Day said. "Most hunters I know honor and respect wildlife."
After the rescue, the hunters-turned-rescuers gathered at Day's farmstead to eat pheasant sandwiches while discussing hunting and fishing. Later that day, Austin Smiley, Nathan Stadler, Austin Moser, and Harlo Olson used Day's Jon boat to pick up the ducks they had shot before discovering the deer.
Whether they are hunting or rescuing wildlife, Day said one thing always remains the same while enjoying the great outdoors.
"I think this will be a start of a beautiful friendship," he said.