The Illinois State Museum was seeking a pair of white-tailed bucks (Odocoileus virginianus) with their antlers locked in combat for a habitat exhibit, when in 1984, two hunters in Pike County happened upon just such a scene. Jerome Martin of Pleasant Hill and Sam Mathews of Riverton encountered these bucks while hunting in the hills near Rockport, an unincorporated town in western Pike County.
The hunters told the local newspaper they decided not to separate the deer, both of which field-dressed at well over 200 pounds. They reported “having a time” getting the pair into their truck for transportation to a check station, where they attracted plenty of attention from fellow hunters. The two deer were among 1,057 taken in Pike County during the two weekends of firearm deer season that fall.
The skulls with antlers still locked together were donated to the Museum only a few weeks later, in December 1984. The Museum’s Curator of Zoology, James Purdue, wrote to Sam Mathews thanking him for the donation and inviting him to come see the Museum’s collection of big game mounts. “Your father seemed impressed with our big game collection. Perhaps you will be also.”
The Museum has an extensive collection of White-tailed Deer specimens, including several albino animals, and skeletal material that allows scientists to study changes in the animal’s form and size over time and among geographic localities. For more information, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources has a website devoted to White-tailed Deer biology and management.