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'OH DEER!': Lake Michigan fishermen save Milwaukee-bound buck

David Maynard Jr. and Michael Morey went fishing Saturday when their "Catch of the Day" became the "Save of the Day" by helping a swimming buck back to shore.

MUSKEGON, Mich. — Before heading out on the water, every fisherman is hoping for an impressive "catch of the day."

A pair of Muskegon anglers' catch of the day ended up being more than they bargained for during their recent fishing-turned-buck-saving expedition on Lake Michigan.

In the early morning hours of Saturday, Oct. 9, David Maynard Jr. and Michael Morey decided to go fishing on White Lake, which separates Whitehall and Montague in northern Muskegon County.

"We didn't have any luck catching anything so we decided to go out into Lake Michigan," said David.

After exiting White Lake Channel, the pair drove their boat about a mile and a half out into the lake, hoping to have better luck.

"It was pretty foggy but the lake was very calm," David said.

As they drifted along, David saw something splashing in the distance.

"At first, I thought it was a duck," he said. 

David steered the boat closer and quickly realized it was much bigger than a duck.

"I saw antlers, then I saw its head," David said. "It was a buck."

The giant male deer somehow wound up more than a mile off shore, in 60-foot-deep water, distressed and disoriented.

"It was swimming west toward Wisconsin," David said. "I thought, we have to help this poor thing."

David and Michael moved the boat in front of the deer, hoping it would begin swimming sideways, then back east toward the shoreline. 

"We were going to try using one of the ropes on board, but them decided against it because we didn't want to hurt the buck, or us," David said. "He was clearly starting to panic."

Once the boys got the buck heading toward land, they dropped their boat speed down to 3 miles per hour, keeping the deer a few feet off their starboard side. 

An hour later, with the buck continuing to execute a breaststroke that would impress Olympian Michael Phelps, they reached a sandbar. 

"Once the deer got its feet on some ground, it was able to wade in toward shore," David said. "We drifted about 50 feet out to make sure the buck got out of the water safely."

Not only did it get out safely, the two-mile, early morning swim seemed to have no effect on him.

"The deer started running all the way up the steep dune then disappeared into the woods," David said. "I was hoping there was going to be a happy ending."

Holly Vaughn, public outreach and engagement unit manager with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, said it isn't entirely unusual for a deer to take a dip. 

"Deer are excellent swimmers – their coat makes them very buoyant," Vaughn said." Generally, they swim to get from one place to another. They might cross a river or lake to get to a location on the other side of the body of water."

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