A Missouri hunter shot what he thought was a 16-point buck, but when he came out of cover and inspected his prize more closely, he saw something was amiss.
Samuel Perotti had seen this well-antlered deer in photos captured by his game camera, the state Department of Conservation said, and recognized it even as he lined up his shot and pulled the trigger.
Then came the surprise: Despite the impressive crown of bone protruding from the deer’s skull, this was no buck, but a doe. A rare one.
A conservation agent met up with Perotti to confirm what he was seeing, according to the conservation department. An antlered doe, the agent determined, a “unique harvest.”
Just how unique? Antlers grow on does once in about every 5,000 female deer, according to National Deer Association estimates, the Clarion Ledger reported in 2019.
Unusual as they are, there are numerous reports of hunters spotting or harvesting antlered does.
Earlier this month, a hunter took down a 20-point doe in Virginia, Field & Stream reported.
While some antlered does sport pretty serious hardware on their heads, others have less impressive growth. One doe harvested in Mississippi could have been mistaken for a unicorn as easily as a buck, with “one small spike” sprouting from it, the Clarion Ledger reported.
A number of things can cause female deer to grow antlers, according to the National Deer Association.
Most often, it’s a result of elevated testosterone, the NDA said, and in such cases the deer can typically still reproduce. However, other anatomical abnormalities can result in antlered females, or antlered males that otherwise appear female.