Mule deer rodeo

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Mike Clements can't wait to one day see the mule deer buck he saved Sunday.

"He is going to be a dandy when he grows up," he said.

The Idaho Falls hunter didn't save the four-point with an errant shot, and he didn't miss it with his truck on a poorly lit highway. Nope, Clements saved the deer with a hacksaw and a courageous -- or maybe just plain crazy -- little brother.

But I get ahead of myself. This story needs to be told in order.

Clements, an avid big-game hunter, woke early Sunday to take advantage of Saturday's new snow. Holding a cow elk tag, he drove to his favorite spot and hiked his favorite ridge and saw nothing but bulls and bucks.

"It seemed like there wasn't an animal without horns," he said.

Soon, however, he spotted elk on a far-off ridge and decided to retreat to his truck to drive closer and make a stalk.

At the truck, the day went sideways when Clements spied two bucks locked together by their horns. One was dead and the other was battling to get away. Clements studied the situation and decided he'd try to break the bucks apart. It was a silly idea.

"That buck wanted no part of it," Clements said. "He was jumping 4 feet in the air. He had way too much energy. He was flipping his butt around and trying to get after me. It was very apparent that I wasn't going to be able to do it by myself because he was very lively."

Clements figured the bucks entered their death grip early that morning, based on the energy the buck still had.

Clements, however, wasn't ready to give up. He called his brother, Casey, and friends Tom and Mitch Mansanarez.

"I felt like it was a worthwhile opportunity for the buck," Mike Clements said. "They both jumped all over it because it was such a unique opportunity."

Casey Clements said his boys wanted to stay home, but he quickly ushered them into the truck.

"I thought of it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience," he said.

While Casey Clements and the Mansanarez brothers gathered gear and hit the road, Mike Clements decided to chase the cows he'd seen earlier. His luck held, and he soon had an animal on the ground and help on the way.

"The funny thing is that I've used Casey as a pack mule for years, so much so that Casey is gun-shy of picking up the phone when I am hunting," Mike Clements said. "As we were getting the cow off the hill, Casey said, 'There better be some deer locked together or you are going to be in deep (trouble).' "

When the cow was loaded in the truck, the crew took off to find the bucks, which were nowhere to be found. Eventually, Clements spied them in a depression near the road. Both appeared to be dead.

"I was pretty devastated because I wanted to help that buck," Mike Clements said.

But when the group approached, the buck sprung to life, trying in vain to flee. They huddled and tried to formulate a plan, considering everything from roping the feisty animal by its heels to bum-rushing it.

"I was amazed at how beat up that dead buck was," Casey Clements said. "You could see the amount of energy that went into the fight and the other buck trying to escape. It was awesome."

Eventually, the buck's prostrations worked to the group's benefit. It fell awkwardly on its back and Casey Clements jumped into action. Without much warning, "my brother just went in and pinned him down," Mike Clements said.

Casey Clements said it was instinct. "I saw the opportunity and dove in," he said.

Mike Clements took the hacksaw to the dead buck's antlers, and in no time the pair of bucks was separated.

Not knowing what to do with the dead deer, they left it on the hill and hit the road home with a story for the ages.

"It was a pretty amazing day," Mike Clements said. "We whooped and hollered as it went over the hill. It was a good feeling that left us all smiling with satisfaction for the rest of the evening."