Local hunter has ‘once in a lifetime’ encounter

Warren County resident Joe Smeltzer came across these two whitetail bucks with their antlers caught in a fence while hunting on a piece of property he owns in Page County last month. Photo courtesy of Mike Wilson

Joe Smeltzer recently had what he calls a “once in a lifetime” experience.

It was the morning of Dec. 21 and Smeltzer, a 71-year-old Browntown resident, had set out to hunt on a piece of land he owns in Page County. Upon approaching the gate to his property, he spotted a whitetail deer nearby, its head lowered toward the barbed-wire fence that lines his property.

As Smeltzer got closer, he noticed the deer, a buck, had its antlers caught in the barbed-wire fence. Then came an even more surprising realization – another buck was also caught in the fence, its antlers interlocked with the deer Smeltzer had initially spotted. Smeltzer was staring at a 12-point buck and a 9-point buck snared in a deadly entanglement of barbed wire.

For Smeltzer, an avid hunter since he was 9 years old, that sight was a first.

“Never seen nothing like it before in my life,” he said over the phone Monday. “I have seen a couple times bucks a-fightin’ but I’ve never seen them caught to each other. The way it looked to me, the bucks were hooked up to each other and they pushed each down against the fence and then got wrapped up in the barbed wire. I mean that’s the way it looked because it was tore up where they had definitely been fighting.”

The entanglement proved fatal for one of the deer – the 9-point – although the 12-point was still alive when Smeltzer discovered them, he said. Seeing no way to free the deer from the mess of barbed wire and antlers, Smeltzer shot it.

Smeltzer said he wasn’t sure exactly how long the deer had been trapped in the fence, as he hadn’t visited his Page County property since four days prior.

“The 12-pointer is the one I shot, and of course I checked him in. But the 9-pointer, he’d been dead for a while, probably eight to 10 hours because he’d begun to – he wasn’t bloated but he had an awful odor to him when I opened him up,” Smeltzer said.

Smeltzer added that each deer’s rack featured a 16-inch inside spread.

He said he’s shared his encounter with other people, and everyone he shares his story with has been genuinely surprised.

“It’s a once in a lifetime deal. It really is,” Smeltzer said. “Everybody’s shocked about it. I’ve had people try to buy the horns and everything else.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com