Ken Martin bagged a rare deer early in Michigan’s 2020 firearms season. Martin discovered that his trophy had fangs after having the skull and antlers mounted. You read that right. Without knowing it, Ken had bagged a rare vampire buck.
According to the Midland Daily News, the hunting trip that resulted in the vampire buck trophy started like any other. Cass City native and avid hunter Ken Martin was hunting from his deer blind. It was the second day of firearms season and Ken was braving the Michigan cold in hopes of putting some venison in the freezer.
A little after daylight, a good-sized buck walked into Martin’s lane. The deer was just over 200 yards away. However, Martin was confident in both his ability and his rifle. He pulled the big buck into focus, situated his crosshairs, and fired. The buck ran but fell quickly. Ken had made a clean kill.
The deer was a respectable 9-point and ended up having a dressed weight of 170 pounds. It was a trophy, even if it weren’t a vampire buck.
The fangs were just under an inch long. The only reason Ken Martin spotted them was that he had the head made into a European mount. After stripping away the flesh, the taxidermist was able to see the small fangs in the front of the upper jaw.
This video is unrelated to Martin’s trophy but does show a vampire buck skull from several angles.
Why Vampire Bucks Have Fangs
Whitetail deer don’t usually have canine teeth. They have just as many teeth as humans. However, all of their teeth are usually molars. Deer are herbivores, so they don’t need sharp teeth to eat. Their antlers and hooves are both defensive and offensive weapons.
Vampire bucks are an example of throwback genetics. Ancient deer had both fangs and antlers. They used both to fight in much the same way modern deer use their antlers. Deer have gotten bigger over the years. Their antlers also grew and their fangs went away for the most part. So, a modern deer with canines is a result of ancient recessive genes presenting themselves. This is why they are so rare.
There is still one species of fanged deer, however. If you look up “vampire buck” on Google, you’ll probably find pictures of Kashmir musk deer. They are tiny, big-eyed, cute things with giant protruding fangs. Only male musk deer grow fangs. As you would imagine, they use them during the rut to fight for territory and breeding rights. You won’t find them in the States, though. The endangered deer are native to India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
Hunters don’t usually check a deer’s teeth after killing it. Make sure to look for fangs the next time you bag a buck. You might just be able to add vampire (buck) slayer to your list of accomplishments.