On the morning of October 23, a hunter took the buck-of-a-lifetime while perched above a sandy ridge in the pine trees and saw palmettos of central Florida. Thomas Asby was in a tree stand with a .50 caliber CVA muzzleloader across his lap when he spotted the giant non-typical from nearly 200 yards away. He watched in awe as the big deer sauntered toward his stand, and when it closed the distance to just 15 yards, he took a perfect broadside shot through a fogged-up scope. Though he'd been chasing it since late July, he wasn't prepared for what he found when he walked up on the downed deer, Asby tells F&S.
Asby became aware of the deer on July 26 after it showed up on a trail camera moving through his private lease. He tried to pattern it, but its movements were oddly sporadic. "We tried to keep the pressure down during archery season, but we never saw him on the lease," he says. "In the entire time that we watched him, he only made one daytime appearance."
Unable to locate the buck on his lease, Asby started trekking into nearby cypress swamps where he thought it might be hiding out. He hunted the swamps hard toward the end of archery with no sign of the buck. Then someone sent him a picture of the deer alive and well in a new location.
Asby made arrangements to hunt the new spot, and after just two hours in the stand, he got the shot opportunity he'd been waiting for. "I saw him running through the black powder smoke and then he just collapsed," he recalls of the 15-yard muzzleloader shot that sealed the deal. "When I got up to him, I was blown away. I knew he was big because of the trail camera videos, but I couldn’t believe the mass of his antlers when I took them in hand."
A Potential State-Record Cactus Buck?
Asby says he was even more shocked after he hauled to deer out of the woods and started processing it. That's when he discovered that it only had one testicle—about the size of a blueberry—and no female organs. The deer was what hunters and biologists commonly refer to as a "cactus buck." The term describes a male deer with abnormally low testosterone levels. It's a condition usually brought on by injury to the groin area—or certain diseases that impacts hormone levels.
Unlike typical males, cactus bucks retain their velvet year round. And in some cases, they don't shed their antlers at all. As a result, cactus buck antlers accumulate growth year after year, and their racks can grow to massive proportions.
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Asby says his cactus buck was sporting an unbelievable 26 points that scored more than 200 inches B&C. "He was taken to an official Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Boone & Crockett measurer where he received the initial score of 206 and 6/8” gross and 200 and 3/8” net," he says. "Because he’s within 15 inches of the non-typical Florida State record of 206 inches, he will be going before a panel of official measurers to be scored again to determine if he is the new state record."