When Clint Cryar and Colby Fruge headed out for a fishing trip Sunday afternoon, dodging the rain and catching a few catfish were all they really had in mind.
The fishing part of the day turned out to be pretty forgettable in rainy, nasty weather, but what happened on their way in has made the 21-year-old friends from Clinton Facebook famous — with videos of their adventure garnering more than 250,000 views in less than 24 hours, along with 2,600-plus shares and more than 800 comments as of Monday afternoon.
So what could have possibly happened on the Choctaw Canal just north of Interstate 10 near Grosse Tete to attract all that internet attention?
The pair spotted a doe with its hind legs hung up in the fork of a tree along the banks, and videoed the rescue mission, thinking their friends and family would enjoy seeing it. (To see the second video, click here.)
“We didn’t expect it to take off at all …,” Cryar said about the videos, with a chuckle. “Then it just took off and people I didn’t know started liking it and commenting and sharing it. I mean, it went crazy.
“It was a lot more support than what we were expecting. It was a once-in-a-lifetime good experience.”
The adventure started around 3:30 when the pair noticed the doe pinned in the tree, struggling to keep its head above water with its front legs stuck in the mud. They hadn’t seen the deer on their way out, so they suspect it hadn’t been stuck for more than 90 minutes.
“My initial reaction was, ‘Hey look, there’s a deer,’ and I pointed it out,” said Fruge, who is seen assisting the animal in the video shot by Cryar. “But after a second glance, I realized it was caught. So we spun the boat around and eased in there.
“You could tell she had been struggling. There was hair all over the tree where she had been trying to jump around. Her belly was raw from where she had been trying to get out. She was trying to work her back end around, but she was getting weaker all the time.”
They were in Cryar’s 16X50 Gator Trax, so he eased the boat to the bank so Fruge could get in position to try to free the animal — which he did.
OUT OF TREE - BUT STILL STUCK
“As soon as I got her leg out, she sprinted off to the side and tried to jump up on the bank, and she fell and just kept falling,” he said.
The bank was steep and wet, and the animal tried four times to make it up, but didn’t, eventually laying down in the water.
“I guess she was trying to gain her strength back, but it was like she just gave up,” Fruge said. “When I got out of the boat into the water, I sank up to my shins in the mud. So with those skinny legs, she just kept going straight down.”
“We saw a couple gators in there, and she was on the side of the bank just worn out and couldn’t get up,” Cryar said. “She’d have been an easy target.
“Our initial plan was to float her back across to the other side (which didn’t have a steep bank), but at her age and this time of year, we thought she may have had a fawn on that side, so we decided to help her get back up on that bank,” Cryar said.
So he stopped the video and repositioned the boat, then filmed again as Fruge helped the big doe — this time getting into the water to do so. The plan was to put the animal in the Gator Trax, so it could more easily hop up onto the bank.
DOE IN THE BOAT
So Fruge, who weighs about 135 pounds himself, helped the 100-pound-plus doe into Cryar’s boat, thinking the deer would scramble off the bow and head into the woods.
“I was hoping she didn’t run to the back of the boat, thinking it might have been a bad idea,” Fruge said. “But she just laid there panting. I was petting her and she didn’t move. But she started to regain her breath a little bit.”
Either too tired or too scared to take the hint and bolt for freedom, Fruge wound up assisting the doe on land, struggling to pick up the animal’s dead weight as the boat edged away from the bank.
“I picked her up. I’m a little fellow, so it took all of me to get her there,” he said. “It was a struggle, but I finally got her up there on dry land.”
Once he faced the doe toward the woods, it took off — like a rocket.
“Her back leg peeled out and kind of smoked me in the chest, kind of knocked the breath out of me for a little bit, and put a red mark on my chest,” Fruge said with a grin. “Then she just shot off into the woods. It was a relief.”
'A WALKING MIRACLE'
Just being able to get out and go fishing, much less wrestle a deer, is a bonus for Fruge, who was involved in a serious one-car accident on April 15 near Pride when he overcorrected and slammed into a tree.
He wound up with a broken back, a broken neck, a broken jaw, lost about 20 pounds and was in a medically-induced coma for nine days at Our Lady of Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge. He said he was glad to be able to return to Shintech in Plaquemine in July, where he works with Cryar.
“They didn’t know what the outcome was going to be be when I first went into the hospital,” Fruge said. “Everybody says I’m a walking miracle, and I got a pretty little scar on my back to tell it all.
“I guess that was my good deed for the day.”