DULUTH, Minn. — On a recent Monday morning, Ardy Stabs of Duluth’s Woodland neighborhood was hauling out his garbage when he saw something he’d never seen before.
It was a good-sized whitetail buck, perhaps a six- or eight-pointer, pulling a 12-foot aluminum boat — on a trailer. On top of the boat lay three good-size ladders.
The buck’s antlers had apparently been snagged in some rope or cord, perhaps a clothesline or part of a hammock, Stabs said. Somehow, the mesh of the rope had become tangled around the tongue of the boat’s trailer. The buck was struggling to extricate its antlers from the trailer by tugging in a backward motion again and again.
“He was straining so hard that he was leaping up in the air,” Stabs said.
Stabs watched the drama unfold. He called his wife out to watch. He called the neighbor who owned the boat.
“I told him to look out the back window because a deer was stealing his boat,” Stabs said. “He thought I was kidding until he looked out his back window and witnessed the event himself.”
The tug-of-war went on for 30 to 40 minutes, Stabs estimated. He watched the buck yank the boat through three yards, the tongue of the trailer carving a small furrow in the turf of people’s yards.
“The whole thing had to weigh several hundred pounds,” Stabs said.
Then the buck made a 180-degree turn and tugged the whole works back into Stabs’ yard.
When the deer and the boat became tangled in a small tree, Stabs began to take a few photos. He also called 911 to see if someone could come and free the deer.
“The deer kept jumping and pulling the boat and trailer and finally frayed the cord enough that it broke loose,” Stabs said.
Once free, the exhausted buck didn’t run off but slowly walked away, Stabs said.
“I’m sure it was near exhaustion,” he said.
It took Stabs and two neighbors to lug the trailered boat and ladders back to his neighbor’s yard.
“If you live long enough,” Stabs said, “you’ll see it all.”