When Darcy Parlee saw two elk lying in a field in March, he thought they were sleeping. But when he approached the animals, they were very much awake — just stuck.

Parlee, an oilfield worker who routinely checks wellhead sites north of Grande Prairie, was in the middle of his route when he spotted the two male elk on March 8.

"I thought they were sleepin'," Parlee told CBC Thursday.

But they weren't asleep. The two bucks' horns had locked together, and both animals were trying to escape.

"When I saw them running across the field sideways, I realized these guys were stuck pretty bad," Parlee said.

He called Fish and Wildlife. He said he asked them to move quickly, as it was clear at least one of the bulls was exhausted.

"I felt horrible because one of them was quite weak," Parlee said. Once Fish and Wildlife arrived, the officer mulled his options.

Parlee said Fish and Wildlife would normally tranquillize the elk and then use a saw to cut the antlers. But with temperatures under –20 C on March 8, the officer said tranquillizers could kill the elk.

Because the elk were still moving, the officer couldn't approach them either.

The only option, Parlee said, was for Fish and Wildlife to shoot the antlers with a gun until they could break free.

The officer shot at the antlers, and the elk broke free.

One took off, and save for a couple of wipeouts, high-tailed it away. The other elk, visibly more tired, stayed back to recuperate.

'Full of piss and vinegar'

When Parlee returned to the site later, he thought for sure the bull had died. It was still in the same spot.

But when Parlee pulled up to the elk, it got up.

"He jumps up and rams my truck tire," he said. "He chased me for, like, 25 feet."

While Parlee tried to put his vehicle in reverse, the elk put its head inside the truck window. "His big long snout came in the window," he said.

"I said, 'Well, if you're this full of piss and vinegar, then I think you're going to make it.'"

Not quite a happy ending

When Parlee returned the next day, he found the same bull lying in the field, dead. Parlee said he figures it was too exhausted after having been tangled with the other bull.

He's just happy that, at least as far as he could tell, the other bull survived.

"I felt relieved," he said. "I would not have slept that night if I didn't call them."