Deer Kills and Bigfootsby Matt Moneymaker. First published in 1995.
The first time I saw a deer kill stash was in November of 1992 while I was investigating a cluster of bigfoot reports near the border of Stark and Carroll Counties in Ohio. A handful of incidents happened near a group of farmhouses in a large tract of 50 year old second growth forest situated on reclaimed strip mines.
The first sighting involved a local bow hunter who was out hunting at dusk. He had shadowed a herd of 15 or so deer through the woods for a few hours. Just after sundown, he laid down at the edge of a field where the deer typically grouped together at night. Part of the herd was browsing, just out of bow range, in the field . He laid there for some time, sitting motionless, waiting for a buck to wander within range, when the whole herd suddenly fled into the tree line across from his position. Turning to his right, he saw what the deer were running from.
A large, upright, walking animal had snuck up to the edge of the tree line, apparently trying to approach the herd. The creature emerged from the tree line and saw the bow hunter about ten meters away. It let out a high-pitched screaming wail, described by the hunter as being far louder than any scream that any human could make. It screamed repeatedly four or five times, moved back inside the tree line where it briefly made a stomping sound, then moved back deeper into the trees. The hunter ran to the house of his friend, who lived nearby.
From that day forward, the residents of this house were more observant of the surrounding fields and tree lines.
A few days after the bow hunter's incident, his friend, Mike, while sitting in his kitchen, noticed that the entire deer herd was feeding close to the house. He sat at a table and watched the herd through the kitchen window for some time. As the deer browsed quietly, the owner heard a knocking sound coming from a wooded hillside overlooking the field with the deer. The knocking sound, which sounded like a piece of wood being hit against a tree trunk, was answered a moment later by a similar knocking sound coming from a wooded slope closer to his house. A moment after that, from the first hill, he reported hearing a short, loud, growling roar. In response, the deer herd bolted in panic toward the closer tree line -- at the base of the slope from where the answering knock had been heard.
The following day Mike decided to take a walk in the woods with his dog. He hiked up the nearby slope to a gated dirt road leading to a water tank back in the woods. As he walked along that drive he found a couple of manlike footprints, 14" x 6", very clearly imprinted in the mud on the edge of the road. He continued up the road to the water tank with his dog. Once at the tank, his dog wandered into the trees. Mike followed. The dog led him to what appeared to be the recently killed carcass of a young deer.
Mike continued to look around and found two more young deer carcasses. Each of the deer had at least one of its legs broken. These fractures were very noticeable as the limbs were violently twisted and contorted. The semi-frozen carcasses were otherwise basically intact (they had been nibbled on by small animals), there were no bullet or bolt wounds, and there was no other major trauma except for around the belly, which had been ripped open. The deer's intestines were still attached but had been pulled out of the belly and left in a pile along side the belly.
Over the next few days the owner, his wife, and other neighbors also noticed these same inexplicable knocking sounds emanating from the woods at various times of the day and night. Within a week the neighbors noticed that the deer herd had apparently moved out of the area. This coincided with a cessation of the knocking sounds.
When the owner met me the following week he was able to take me to the deer carcasses, which were more eaten by that point, but not pulled apart. The broken legs were still very visible.
Mike asked me if bigfoots attack deer. I told him what I knew at that stage -- I had read bigfoot books and reports for years, I had met and corresponded with dozens of bigfoot researchers, but never read or heard anything like that. Everything in print basically repeated the "nuts, berries, roots, and occasional opportunistic scavenging" assumption. Nowhere was there any suggestion of predatory behavior. Frankly, the thought of it conflicted with my impression of bigfoots as harmless woodland foragers. Resisting the possibility that these creatures, whatever they were, were out brutalizing Bambi, I asked him (and, thereafter, anybody who might shed light on it) if there was anything in nature or human activity that might explain it. Do farmers illegally cull deer herds this way -- by targeting baby deer? Do Ohio poachers typically trespass so close to farmhouses, several days in a row, and go after young deer without antlers, and carry the carcasses to one area, and partially gut them, but then leave the whole behind mess behind to rot? Are stray dogs known to carry road kills back to one spot, then open the belly and pull out the guts, then not eat the guts but leave the rest of the flesh intact? Could some pollutant or disease in the environment cause only young deer to drop dead all in one area? If so, then how did their legs get broken, and what other carnivores came along and got into their bellies without dismembering the body as they usually do? Do bears do this? Do cougars do this? What else is out there?
As I subsequently learned, cougars and bears operate much the same way with deer kills. They drag the kills to the nearest suitable sheltered spot and partially bury them with leaves and/or dirt. They'll feed on the remains until they're full, then "lay up" nearby until they're hungry again. They'll keep returning to the same kill until it's either completely devoured or too "ripe" to eat. In the dry regions out west cougars will occasionally wait alongside trails leading to watering holes. Over time a cougar may end up killing several deer in the same general area near a watering hole, but these kills will not be found piled up or collected in a stash. Cougars will concentrate on one kill at a time, and the conditions of the carcasses show obvious signs of a large carnivore's feeding. When cougars are feeding their offspring they regurgitate the remains back at the den unless it's small game.
In December of 1992, a different farmer in Guernsey County, 60 miles to the south of this first deer kill stash, reported seeing and hearing what he described as more than one bigfoot, located near his home, over the course of a few weeks. When I came to check it out, I found him to be a very credible old Mennonite farmer. His house was perched on top of a plateau near the edge of a steep slope that formed the wall of a creek valley. The creek was one of the larger feeder creeks flowing into Salt Fork Lake. I asked him about the activity and its consistency, and about the possibility of staking out his property when the visitors returned. The farmer told me the activity happened only intermittently, and it only happened at night, and he hadn't heard or seen anything for a week or so.
During our first meeting he asked me, "Do these things kill deer?" I answered, with a bit of a shudder I'm sure, "Uhhh ... why do you ask?" He proceeded to tell me how he kept finding young dead deer down by the creek. The deer hadn't been shot and his family had lived in that county for generations and had never known any animal to kill and collect deer like that. He was puzzled why some of their legs were broken and twisted around.
My wife and I returned to the Guernsey County farmer's place a few days later to look around. Following the farmer's directions, we looked for some deer kills on our own. We soon came upon a kill in the creek bottom and spent some time examining it before enduring too many cuts from the briars.
This young deer was in substantially the same condition as those in Stark County when they were first discovered -- semi-frozen (nighttime temperatures in eastern Ohio are typically well below freezing from November to March), only nibbled on by small animals, guts hanging out, broken and twisted leg, no bullet wounds.
My wife is an M.D., the daughter of two veterinarians, and the granddaughter of a zoo curator. She has a much stronger stomach than I when it comes to stinking animal carcasses. It wasn't long before she noticed something curious as she closely probed the open belly. The liver was gone. The liver is a rather large, dark reddish-brown organ sandwiched between the rib cage and the intestines. Carnivores don't typically go for the liver first, or at least the liver only, and it did not appear that a human was responsible; the wound that opened up the belly was not a clean cut, as with a sharp knife. In fact, the wound looked similar to those on the other deer carcasses I'd seen in Stark County, as if it had been cut open with something dull.
The impression my wife got was that the predator merely wanted to open the belly, move the intestines out of the way, lift up the rib cage, and remove the liver in its entirety. We looked around and found another carcass on top of a large rock outcropping, which the farmer had described, then another at the base. We checked both, and both of the livers were gone. It was truly a spooky sight.
In the summer of 1993 I met up with a witness near Wills Creek in Coshocton County, about 10 miles northwest of the Guernsey County farmer's place. The witness was a retired machinist from Cleveland who had permanently relocated to his cabin in Coshocton County. He was well known in the area because he built a statue depicting the bigfoot he had encountered, and even posted a sign in front of his cabin proclaiming it "SASQUATCH VALLEY."
He said that while he was out hunting in the fall, he followed some paths back into the more remote uninhabited hollows of the Wills Creek area, a few miles from his cabin. He followed a deer trail to a cave like overhang. Inside the overhang, he found a collection of severed deer legs. The rest of the remains were not present. The deer legs on the floor of the cave were neatly arranged side by side.
He sat down and rested and was there for a while before it happened -- the sasquatch returned to the cave. The old guy was paralyzed with terror as he sat there staring at this hair covered thing which stood motionless, staring back at him from a few yards away, at the lip of the overhang. Eventually the old man stood up and slowly climbed out the other side of the cave's wide mouth. The sasquatch didn't chase after him.
In the fall of 1993, I followed up on a flap near Berlin Lake, Ohio. Several reported sightings occurred in that area in October. A Portage County sheriff's deputy who had investigated one of the sightings told me about a find made near the lake by wildlife officers a few years earlier. Several deer carcasses were found close together near the edge of the lake. They had been "mutilated." Other than that, the deputy didn't know any specifics regarding the conditions of the remains. He said that poachers had been ruled out, which evidently indicated that no bullet wounds were observed, and that there was no official explanation or further investigation. "Devil worshippers" was mentioned as a possible explanation.
That winter I was contacted by an acquaintance from the Berlin area who had found the carcass of a young deer on the edge of field a mile or so north of the lake. The carcass had been there for a while by the time I arrived. This one was frozen solid and partially submerged in a puddle which was solid ice, preventing me from poking around in its belly to see if the liver was missing. However, the guts were along side it just like the others. The deer was otherwise in one piece. I spoke with a man whose house sat about 100 meters from this kill. I asked if he had ever seen cougars or bears in the area. He hadn't. The only thing unusual was his wife's observation, a week before, of what looked like a large man's footprints in the snow close to their barn. They didn't know what to make of it, because from the tracks, it appeared the trespasser wasn't wearing any shoes, despite the snow and sub-zero temperatures.
In the summer of 1994, I focused exclusively on one location in Columbiana County. Several residents in the area had contacted me with sighting reports extending back to the mid-1980's. I (and the family on whose property I had set up recording equipment) was experimenting with various techniques to attract and videotape the bigfoot the family had repeatedly seen and heard. Here I obtained recordings of the unexplained sounds that appeared to fit the descriptions of vocalizations attributed to bigfoots, both in Ohio and the Pacific northwest.
It wasn't until late October that the family discovered the first of what would, over the course of a couple of weeks, add up to four young deer carcasses found in the woods near their house. I drove out to take a look at the first carcass and found it in the now familiar condition. Having by that point obtained good video equipment, I was able, and now thought it wise, to video tape this carcass, showing the broken legs and the cavity where the missing liver had been.
The BFRO's database includes an account from Auglaize County, Ohio, regarding bigfoot predation on deer. It reportedly took place in late October, 1974. In this case the bigfoot dropped the deer upon encountering a coon hunter, but as in the other situations, a leg had been broken. In fact, the hunter reported that the deer's back was also broken and that the leg was pulled out of its socket and nearly twisted off.
I've brought up the subject of deer related bigfoot sightings with a few bigfoot researchers in this area of the country over the course of the past few years. I heard about two reports from PA and one from WI. The one from WI (1994) came to me from my contact in Berlin, Ohio, and involved members of his own family. They were driving through central WI on their way home from visiting the family in Berlin. At some point in central WI (they weren't sure of the county), while driving at night in a wooded area, they came close to colliding with a bigfoot, as they described it, crossing the road with the body of a young deer slung over its shoulder.
A similar report came from Washington County, PA; a group of people in a car saw a bigfoot crossing a road with a deer slung over its shoulder (I'm not sure of the year here; this and the following account came from Joan Jeffers, a well known PA bigfoot researcher).
The other PA incident involved a hunter who had shot a deer. He got his deer ready for gutting by hanging it from a branch, but left it for a few moments to go to his car to gather the tools needed to gut and prepare it for transport. When he returned to where he had left the deer, it was gone. He stated that a trail of blood and large bigfoot tracks led away from the place where the deer had been left hanging. As I recall, he said that he had been gone for such a short period of time that the culprit must have been watching him the whole time.
During a conversation in 1994 with former radio talk show host Chris Roth (who hosted a weekly UFO oriented program called "In Advance of The Landing" on station WHPK, the University of Chicago radio station), I mentioned the finds of deer carcass stashes in connection with bigfoot sighting reports in Ohio. His friend and cohost immediately brought up a report of a similar find in Illinois where several "mutilated" deer carcasses where found "stacked" in a forest, which he recalled as being the Shawnee National Forest. The discovery had circulated among local UFO buffs in order to inquire about possible UFO correlations. Roth didn't think there was a correlation with UFO's. The only thing comparable were the well publicized reports of unexplained "cattle mutilations," but those cases involved, without exception, according to Roth, high-tech surgical procedures and dissections believed to have been done with a laser or something like it. The Illinois "stacked, mutilated deer" case went unexplained, but, once again, "devil worshippers" came up as a possibility.
However, bigfoot predation on deer does not appear to be an exclusively midwestern occurrence. For example, the BFRO is aware of such reports from New England, Texas, and Oklahoma. In an article by Washington state bigfoot researcher Vance Orchard titled "Report from Walla Walla - February 1995" (The Bigfoot Co-op Newsletter (BCONL), Vol.15, Feb.'95) he talks about the major WA flap of early '95 in the Blue Mountains. The incident is referred to as the "Bigfoot of the Blues" affair, which, among other things, involved the discovery of "thousands of tracks" in the Mill Creek - Scenic Loop - Meinera/Coyote roads vicinity. One of the investigators was a man named Dave Been. He was a member of the Freeman crew, and I think he was part of the group that brought in some possible sasquatch hairs. Orchard writes, "It had been the contention of Been's for some time now that a grove of firs on the creek could be a Bigfoot mecca. He says he has found several kills of deer, probably made by cougars, and stashed in a brushy area. 'A Bigfoot could spend a day or two in there if there's a kill or two for it to feed on.'" Orchard or Been can still consult with any expert on cougars to find out that cougars do not collect multiple, uneaten deer carcasses. They eat 'em one at at time, and they don't usually drag them too far from where they kill them.
In another article by Orchard titled "On the Trail - Journal of a Researcher" (BCONL, Vol.16, June '95) he talks about a conversation with woman "in her 80's" who grew up and spent her entire life in upper Coppei region of the Blue Mountains: "She opened the conversation by observing that a comment I'd made in a recent Bigfoot report, about Bigfoots possibly eating deer killed by a cougar, would prove a point she remembered about her childhood days on the upper Coppei. There, at Coppei Falls, she said, Bigfoots reputedly would chase elk and run them over the brink of the falls. Then, at the base of the cliff, the critters could pack off the elk at their leisure. When I reminded her that early American mankind had used the same tactic to kill off thousands of buffalo, she felt certain the old stories were true."
Why the liver?
Some people have expressed doubts that a predator would go to the trouble of hunting down a deer just to get at the liver, ignoring the rest of the flesh. It's difficult to quantify how much energy it takes to hunt a deer. A lot depends on the style of hunting. An intelligent strategy could minimize the chase and the overall effort. Logically, it would be easier to chase or trap a younger deer, especially if two predators were hunting cooperatively. It would also be much easier to carry a smaller deer back to a particular location, perhaps some distance away from the kill site. Nor would it be a waste time to focus on the liver exclusively. You won't find much else in the natural flora and fauna of North America that's a more profitable score than a deer's liver. Of all the parts of any large animal -- the muscles, the intestines, etc. -- the liver provides far and away the best pay off. It's no small catch. The liver is one of the largest organs in the gut. Even a juvenile deer's liver, if rolled into a ball, would take up nearly as much space as a bowling ball. In terms of nutrients, particularly in the fall and winter, an exclusive diet of deer liver could easily sustain something like a bigfoot until spring. The only thing that would provide a better exclusive and natural diet to get through the snowy season would be the liver of a larger ungulate, like a moose, elk or a bison, but only because there's more of it to eat.
Here's what a deer's liver provides:
In terms of the work/gain equation, a bigfoot's habit of going after deer livers,
and possibly leg bone marrow as well, and ignoring the raw muscles attached
to the bone, would be the most efficient use of its energy in fall and winter.
Ohio Eyewitness Sketches
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