George A. Bowers Sr.: Learning from the bucks

Locked antlers from two bucks. Courtesy photo

As most readers know, my father operated a taxidermy business in Maurertown for over 60 years.

During that time, he mounted a pile of deer heads, squirrels, snakes, fish, birds, and every other animal imaginable. His showroom was always filled with completed trophies, leather coats, two headed calves, and many other items of great interest. Among the most spectacular were two deer racks that hung over the east window. These antlers hung there ever since I can remember and God only knows how long before that. These two sets of whitetail glory were unique because they were tightly locked together. One of the two bucks was a nice 10-pointer and the other was actually an even larger eight. Any hunter would have been tickled to bag either of them.

The story goes that someone found the two animals locked in a death duel with one buck already dead and the other nearly so. Out of compassion for the starving animal, the living buck was killed as well, and the two sets of still locked horns ended up in Dad’s shop, where they hung as a silent object lesson for the next 50 or so years.

What was it that caused these otherwise healthy animals to become inseparable and eventually led to their untimely demise? A desire to be dominant. Males in most every specie of the deer family engage in these battles each fall. Even now, bucks are becoming frisky and although they may have shared the same bachelor group all summer, as mating season approaches those brotherly bonds are left behind. Hunters are sometimes privileged to witness this fighting as I have a few times, although I’ve never seen two lock together. But I have seen locked antlers and I’ve even seen photos of three tangled bucks, all of which drowned in a nearby stream.

Because they were both strong and virile, each of these two massive giants was convinced he could bully the other into submission on that cool fall day. And so the fighting commenced. How long it lasted we do not know and what went through their minds once they knew they were forever entwined we can only imagine. But that day, they both lost.

How many times we think we can intimidate other people into submission or chase them off only to become embroiled in bitter battles that no one wins. If either of those bucks had simply walked away, or if they had both agreed to disagree, or if they had even settled on clearly defined boundaries, they both could have passed their dominant genes along to many fawning offspring. But their desire to have it all forced them into premature death and they both missed the opportunity to ever mate again, much less eat or drink.

Are whitetails prone to pride or are they simply obeying instincts? Do they do stupid things to save face (or antlers) or are humans the only ones who do that? Are deer capable of reasonable discussion and respectful disagreement or do their hormones demand all or nothing? I don’t know for sure about the bucks, but it seems we humans can do better.

I’m not advocating cowardice or foolish compromise. I’m just saying there are battles worth fighting and others that aren’t. Although some causes are clearly worth fighting and dying for, there are times when it is certainly advantageous to part company and go separate ways without either party having to surrender. Before we clash with someone, let’s be sure the possible outcomes are worth the risks. Let’s search the Scriptures for similar situations from which we can draw wisdom and guidance. Ultimately, let’s ask God to reveal the best strategies for given situations and then follow his leading. Before we lock horns with someone, let’s seek other means to resolve the conflict that might enable both to walk away with dignity and respect. Let’s learn a lesson from the bucks.

Blessings, George

George Bowers Sr. is the pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren in Woodstock and the author of four books, including his latest book of poetry, “Wit and Wisdom of the Woods.” He can be reached at gabowers@shentel.net.