Virginia Hunter Takes Down Doe Thinking It Was 20-Point Buck: Photo

by Jon D. B.

“My taxidermist said he’s never seen anything like it in 40 years.” It sounds far-fetched, but once you see the photo of this unbelievable doe, it all makes sense.

What sort of doe could prompt a seasoned taxidermist to utter those words? The doe Virginia hunter Steven Johnston took down.

“I have never in my life killed something like this,” says Johnston. At first glance, the white-tailed deer passing below his stand had an odd look. It’s rack wasn’t necessarily large, which had the hunter contemplating a “pass” for the deer. That is until he saw three tall tines protruding straight up from its skull.

“My wife Nicole wanted to do something artistic with a skull mount—something she could do a design with,” Johnston tells Field & Stream. “I figured this deer might make a good one.”

And a fine mount it will make. This Outsider and wildlife tech has never seen another deer like it. White-tailed buck, doe, you name it. This is a one-in-a-million deer.

Thinking the same, Johnston readied his 12-guage. “I climbed down, went to the deer, then stepped back and said, ‘What the hell did I just shoot?’”

As his photos show, the deer would give off the impression of a buck to even the most seasoned of hunters. Nine tines stick straight up from its crown. One even had dried velvet still intact. Tack on 11 more points protruding from the skull, and this is one wild buck. Only it’s not a buck at all.

Doe Dilemma: Loading Up Prize Buck Reveals It to Be No Buck at All

As the 46-year-old hunter loaded the sizable white-tail into his pickup outside Rushmere, Virginia, he couldn’t help but notice the underbelly. The anatomy on this deer was clearly that of a doe, not a buck. What he had just shot was already a marvel – but now it was a scientific anomaly that defied everything he knew about deer.

Johnston did what any hunter should, and called it in. The local conservation police officer informed him he would still need to use a buck tag for the unusual doe. And so he did. But what could cause such a phenomenal deformity?

According to the chief communications officer of the National Deer Association, Lindsay Thomas Jr., “There are a number of kind-of-related oddities in antler growth that result when deer, for whatever reason, produce too much or too little testosterone.

“Bucks born with underdeveloped testicles produce too little testosterone, so they grow antlers that are always in velvet and never go through the annual cycle of hardening and shedding,” she tells Field & Stream. “Hermaphrodite deer are born with the reproductive organs of both sexes and also produce strange antlers. When a doe produces antlers, it’s usually a result of elevated testosterone production. She may be a normal doe in other ways and capable of reproducing.”

Scientific explanation aside, Steven Johnston will absolutely be mounting this extraordinary deer. He plans to “honor” her with a shoulder mount, something his gobsmacked taxidermist will no doubt oblige.