Rescue at Lake Greeley, two days before the start of PA Deer Season

LACKAWAXEN TWP. - Two days before the opening day of Pennsylvania’s Deer Season, two hunters rescued an eight point buck which was struggling for its life, trapped on frozen Lake Greeley.
The dramatic rescue effort has attracted much attention through a video posted on Facebook, taken by Jeff Sidle of Hawley, who learned of what was taking place and went to the scene. The drama unfolded Saturday morning, November 24.
Joshua Davis and his friend, Ed Schmalzle, both Lords Valley residents, hatched the plan of what to do. The deer had not fallen through the ice, but was floundering on top, its hoofs unable to get a grip. The animal was about 100 yards from shore, for how long they did not know.
A friend of Kevin Davis (Joshua’s father) had seen the deer and contacted Joshua.
At around 9:30 a.m., Joshua and his father, as well as Ed and his wife Donna, went to the scene. Joshua Davis said that from the main road it would have been hard to tell there was an animal in trouble, as it wasn’t moving very much and may have looked like a stump to most people driving by.
Schmalzle said he proceeded to Camp Shohola, nearby, and borrowed a row boat. Several lengths of rope were tried together, and tied to the boat.
Davis went out alone on the boat, with a life jacket, using his foot to push himself along on the ice as he approached the deer.
The ice started to crack.
Aside from the thin ice, he said he was also concerned that the deer might try to climb into the boat.
As the buck flayed its legs and struggled to stand up, Davis got around the deer to try and keep it from sliding further out on the lake.
He was able to grab hold of the rack, and tie the rope to an antler.
The frightened deer, meanwhile, thrashed about with its neck, but Davis was able to keep hold of both the rope and the antlers, while a gathering group of people pulled the boat and the deer back to shore.
Schmalzle  said that once the deer was pulled to dry ground, the animal took maybe three or four minutes to stand up. He said that the deer was exhausted, and once it stood its legs wobbled like “jelly.” Soon, the deer rebounded, and ran off across the road and into the woods.
Both of them said it was a good feeling to rescue the animal and see it recover. Davis said that it did not appear that the animal was injured, and looked strong and robust.
The whole rescue operation took about an hour. Davis said that from the time the first person was known to have seen it and the animal was rescued, it may have been two and a half hours.
Someone had called 9-1-1 and was put in touch with the PA Game Commission, which reportedly was unable to assist, Sidle said.
If it seems ironic that deer hunters would save a deer, Davis said that it is a good point, that while he likes to hunt, there is a “big difference” between humanely killing a deer and seeing it suffer. He said as a hunter he does not kill for the sake of killing, but rather sees it as a humane sport which provides food. He said he makes sure when hunting to take a “good shot” so that the animal is dispatched in a “couple seconds.”
He said he had thought at first if they were unable to bring the animal to shore, he might have shot it rather than leave it to suffer.
Schmalzle had the same response. “We’re hunters, all of us, but we hate to see something like that go to waste and suffer,” he said.
“It is interesting to note that I think all involved are hunters, but we are all human, too,” Jeff Sidle commented. Sidle brought rope to assist with the effort, and was among several people who came by.
The deer had a really nice rack, Davis said, of the sort he wouldn’t mind having as a hunting trophy.
Davis related that he made the comment that the rescued deer might only live two days, if some hunter found it on the first day of Deer Season. Davis said he felt indifferent over whether the deer could miss being shot, but added that he just hopes that the deer is healthy, if it does stay alive.
Schmalzle commented that he does feel that it would be nice, if the deer survived hunting season, seeing what an ordeal it just endured.
Davis advised that one shouldn’t attempt such a rescue, without knowing what to do. He said that his Army combat survival training had taught him how to handle being out on a frozen lake.

Editor’s Note: To view Jeff Sidle’s video, visit