Curt Russell was just trying to score the biggest buck in his 26 years of hunting. What he got was something else entirely.
Russell’s November hunt started with frustration, when his attempt at killing a 22-point whitetail began with a disrupted shot from a nosey predator.
“I saw it in a field with a group of six other deer, but a coyote came in and busted me – all the deer blew out,” he told the Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader.
Russell, 32, was motivated to find the trophy buck when he came back the next day. It was 20 minutes before sunset when he spotted the whitetail amongst a group of does and one small buck.
“I did a 50-yard belly crawl to cut the distance and got to within 175 yards,” Russell said. “I was using a Remington 700 .30-06, and when I took the shot it was a clean hit. It was dead before it hit the ground.”
The prized kill was a story in itself, but nothing could prepare Russell for the biggest surprise of a lifetime: The 22-point buck was actually a doe with antlers.
“It took me a minute looking at all the tell-tale signs, but it was missing male genitalia,” Russell said. “Its face wasn’t like a buck’s, it was real petite, and she had a great deal of fat on her. I’ve taken a lot of deer but this had the biggest set of antlers, indeed.”
Emily Flinn, a deer biologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation, confirmed a doe with antlers was “definitely very rare.”
“Each year Missouri hunters take 250,000 to 300,000 deer and we only get a handful of antlered does reported to me,” Flinn said.
Most of the does have small horns, typically covered permanently in velvet. Russell’s deer had thick antlers that had been rubbed enough to removed nearly all the velvet.
Antlered does occur because of a hormone imbalance that causes higher levels of testosterone, causing antlers to grow. Some antlered does are hermaphrodites. Flinn said both conditions are very rare.
Russell said he sent his deer to a local taxidermist, but because of its rarity and size of antlers, it might land in a whitetail museum. If not, Russell will add it to his personal collection at his home in Billings.
“I’ve got bucks on the wall, but this would be the first doe with antlers,” he said.