The call came over their patrol truck radio just before 4 p.m.
There was a deer in a house.
In a basement, to be exact, and the owners were panicking over what to do.
“We sort of laughed at first. Then we started getting other officers coming on the radio offering advice, while laughing of course, telling us to make sure to get video,” said Minnesota Conservation Officer Kipp Duncan.
“They all had advice but none of them showed up to help,” said Leah Kampa, a conservation officer in training who has been patrolling with Duncan this month in the woods north of Duluth.
When the two officers arrived at the Duluth Township home they could see the smashed basement window from the driveway.
“The whole basement was trashed. There was glass everywhere,” Kampa added. “The owners said after they first heard the window crash they thought there was a war going on in their basement.”
“It was actually quiet when I went in. I thought maybe it had died or something. They (the homeowners) told me they had it locked in the laundry room, but that it kept getting out - it would paw at the latch and open it - but then go right back in,’’ Duncan said.
But the deer - a doe Duncan gauged at one-and-one-half years old, maybe 120 pounds - was far from dead. It was just warming up.
“I went in there, and it just went nuts. It tried to jump out those little basement windows up high, but just bounced off the walls. It was smashing into everything. Not bumping into them, smashing into things. Eventually it ended up upside down in the laundry tub, its legs flailing in the air,’’ Duncan said.
Duncan lifted the deer out of the laundry tub, but the deer busted loose from his bear hug.
During this time, Kampa and the homeowners were busy trying to block all the windows. The wardens also built a corridor of sorts, walled by furniture - chairs, tables, the basement pool table - trying to funnel the deer up the stairs of the split-level home.
Duncan finally managed to flop on top of the deer, but it squirmed away.
“I’m yelling for her (Kampa) and the deer is bellowing ... blahhhhhh! It was a mess,’’ Duncan said, noting the deer didn’t take the hoped-for route. “It jumped on top of the pool table where it was slipping pretty bad, trying to get traction.’’
Kampa noted there was no way the deer could make it back through the window it came in through.
“The only way out was up the stairs and out the front door,’’ Duncan said.
While Duncan was trying to wrestle the deer into submission, Kampa and the homeowners worked to remove all of the antiques, paintings and knicknacks along the deer’s route to the front door.
“The house was full of breakable stuff,” Duncan noted. “My primary concern was that there were water lines and gas lines down in the basement, and that I had to get this thing subdued and get it out before it did some serious damage.”
A little later Duncan laid on top of the deer and managed to grab a heavy throw rug that was nearby. He started to cover the deer with the rug and yelled for Kampa to come down and tie up the doe’s rear legs.
Somehow the officers eventually subdued the deer, rolled it up in the rug and started to carry it up the stairs.
“It was starting to squirm out again ... its front legs and head. But its back legs were still tied, and we managed to push it up the stairs and out the front door ... And then it just bolted out through the yard and was gone,’’ Duncan said.
“And it didn't even say thank you,” Kampa added.
The incident occured Nov. 20 - two days after Minnesota’s firearms deer season closed.
Duncan estimated they were only at the house a half-hour. He said the wrestling match with the doe lasted about 15 minutes of that, off and on.
“I was physically exhausted. To the point of almost throwing up,’’ Duncan said. “It was a heck of a fight.”
In the end the homeowners reported no major damage other than the broken window that needed to be replaced. The rest was mostly cleanup.
What about the video the other officers demanded?
“We were just too busy. We never had time to think about taking a photo,” Duncan said.
Kampa conceded deer rescues in basements were not something she learned at the Department of Natural Resources training academy over the summer.
Duncan, however, has ample experience rescuing deer. In recent months he’s cut two bucks loose that had been snared in backyard hammocks.
“I’m not sure we’ll see one like this again,” Kampa said.
Duncan said it appears the homeowners had left corn out for deer to eat on the sidewalk near the window. But it’s not clear why the deer decided to bolt through the window into the basement.
Kampa and Duncan said that, in hindsight, they should have probably used their Tasers to subdue the deer.
“All we needed was a few seconds of it not fighting back and a chance to get it outside,” Duncan said. “Next time, that’s what we’ll do.”