ANGLE INLET, Minn. – Paul Colson had quite the adventurous start to his day Monday morning, Oct. 26, at this northern tip of Minnesota that’s surrounded on three sides by Canada.
Owner of Jake’s Northwest Angle Resort, Colson and his wife, Karen, had just returned from checking rabbit snares when he noticed a whitetail buck in the water of Pine Creek, the stream that runs past the resort and into Lake of the Woods.
A stray dog, a German shepherd or mixed breed with shepherd blood, had chased the buck through the resort and onto the creek, where the deer broke through thin ice and was flailing to regain its footing, Colson recalls.
The dog took off when it saw the Colsons.
I was scheduled to do an interview with Colson at 9 a.m. Monday for an unrelated story when he called and said he’d be a few minutes late because he was rescuing a deer.
The interview could wait, I said; rescue the deer.
He described the encounter a short time later.
“So I’ve got this buck in the ice and he’s trying to get on the ice,” Colson said. “He can get his front end up, but he can’t get his back end up, and I don’t know how long he’s been in there.
“So then I’m trying to figure out, ‘Do I go in front of him and try to hook his horn with a rope and tug him up?’ And then, how do you get the rope off from his antlers?”
Not knowing what else to do, Colson got into a canoe onshore and paddled through the shards of ice toward the struggling deer.
“I wish I would have had something besides a canoe because ... it’s a (tippy) canoe, but that’s all I had,” Colson said. “I didn’t have any boats in the water, and I’m just like, ‘What do I do?’
“When I got next to him, he of course didn’t like it, but there wasn’t much he could do.”
At one point, the buck circled behind the canoe like it was headed back toward the resort, where Karen Colson was shooting video of the rescue effort.
“I said, ‘Get out of there Karen,’ because I didn’t want her standing on shore and then (have) him see that motion and spook,” Colson said. “He needed an escape route.”
The buck apparently thought better of returning to the shoreline where he’d eluded the dog and instead circled back toward the far shore of the creek. Colson was able to get closer to the deer with the canoe in ice cold water that was 9 to 10 feet in the deepest spot.
“His butt was underwater,” Colson said. “I grabbed hold of his tail, and every time I’d try to lift him up, of course, the canoe would go backwards because I’m pushing forward.”
This went on for four or five attempts.
“He kind of got one leg underneath him and he started working with me a little bit more,” Colson said. “I was able to just kind of goose him up on the ice, and I didn’t get flipped over in the water. He got on the ice, and then I backed up and got out of there.”
It took probably 5 minutes, Colson recalls, but the buck eventually managed to gain enough traction to get his front hooves up onto the iced-in reeds on the far shore of the creek.
“He kept slipping and falling because they don’t go very well on glare ice,” Colson said. “Once they go down, it’s very difficult for a deer to get back up. He kind of slipped and fell until he got into the reeds and then there was enough traction there that he was able to get up on the opposite shore and run away.”
Looking back on the encounter, Colson said he was glad he could rescue the buck, which he called a “basket 8-pointer,” and that the story had a favorable outcome.
“It worked out well,” he said. “It makes you feel really good.”