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Buck, Doe, or Both By: Nick Buseman, Grundy County Conservation Operation Supervisor

December 21, 2018
Reinbeck Courier
If you were to ask almost anyone how to identify a buck from a doe they would be quick to say a buck has antlers, which is most of the time a correct answer. Even yearling bucks exhibit tiny antlers called buttons. As an antlered animal, we also know that male deer lose or shed their antlers annually, and grow new ones every summer. You may be asking where is he going with this? Well, don’t judge the book by its cover. We are all familiar with animal oddities such as color phases of squirrels or a piebald deer, but what about an antlered female deer? Over the years I have heard of this strange occurrence less than a handful of times. On Wednesday of the first shotgun season, I received a call from a good friend of mine stating that they had shot an antlered doe. Shocked by the news, I did some research. During our discussion he shared that the deer had no external male reproductive parts and resembled a doe upon field dressing the deer. The deer had a typical 2 1/2 year-old nine point rack upon first glance. However, during the process of loading the deer one of the antlers broke off just above the bur or base of the antler. The broken antler was porous, almost hollow inside. A typical antler is a solid bone like structure that is extremely hard to break. By the time the butchering process had been completed both antlers had been broke due to the brittle, nonsolid nature they were in. Researching this phenomenon, there are a few different reasons for this occurrence. I believe that this case is a result of this deer being a hermaphrodite, which means containing both male and female organs. In a case of an antlered doe the male organs are faint and not external resulting in a normal antlered buck appearance. Other cases where the antlered doe has no traces of male organs you will find that the antlers will either be covered in velvet yet or not have branched antlers. These animals do not contain enough testosterone to grow fully hardened branched antlers. Often times they will be short spiked antlered deer or they will be goofy shaped racks still carrying velvet. Either of these cases are extremely rare and are worth telling someone in the field about them. Don’t worry, they are not a result of a nuclear fallout. They are just another example of animal oddities that may be a result of inbreeding or just a joke by Mother Nature. Don’t forget to enjoy the outdoors.

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