Andy Klark and his son, Mitchell, had prepared for the first day of archery season for some time. Now with all the preseason chores completed, it was time to hunt.
On the second full day of archery season this father and son were about to embark on Mitch’s first year of deer hunting.
“On Monday we set out on an afternoon hunt. Our blind was located inside the woods line of a field where a number of active deer trails converged,” Andy said.
Klark went on to say, “Our blind was set inside the woods in the vicinity of an open field the deer were using. It didn’t take long until we watched a buck feeding and coming our way.”
Andy said, “Our blind was in the right spot. However the deer was coming from a direction we hadn’t anticipated. In order for Mitch to have a shot, he had to adjust to a different shooting position. And he did, moving slowly, doing everything right.”
At this point Mitch was lining up his crossbow on the antlered deer. Moments later a bolt was released from the crossbow accurately finding its mark.
Upon recovery you can bet the pair were all smiles, but that’s when a bit of confusion set in. The deer wore antlers, however other body parts indicated the animal was a doe. Neither hunter, nor the vast majority of seasoned veterans, have experienced a situation such as this.
Andy said, “We made a few calls and quickly learned that this deer was something special.”
Mitch was hunting within the framework of the PGC’s Mentored Youth Permit program. The program allows youngsters between the ages of seven and eleven years old to hunt with a parent or guardian and receive hands on, one on one, hunting experience.
Before the deer was moved it was photographed from one end to the other. An antlered deer tag was affixed to the deer. Andy said, “Mitch was really hands on through the entire process.”
A proud pair you bet. Mitch said, “It was really fun to visit with our friends and show them the deer. A lot of people never heard about such a thing and they had lots of questions about the deer.”
How is an antlered deer defined?
Caribou is the only member of the Cervid family where males and females have antlers. However there are exceptions.
In his book, The Deer of North America, Leonard Lee Rue III cited research from a number of states including Pennsylvania regarding antlered does. The findings were conducted by J. Kenneth Doutt and John C. Donaldson of the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh. In 1959, research indicated that of 38,270 antlered deer killed, 17 were antlered does. The research continued until 1961. Out of 173,038 antlered deer harvested in that period, 43 were antlered does, indicating a 1/4,024 ratio.
A report by PGC Wildlife Biologist Jeannine Tardiff Fleegle supports the late 50s early 1960s data of 1/4437.
Reports of antlered females have not increased.
In Michigan researchers examined 8,605 free ranging adult does over a three year period and found only nine considered to be true antlered does.
So what triggers this exception to nature?
Going back to Fleegle’s report, it indicates that females can have a testosterone surge caused by a hormone imbalance, first pregnancy, tumors, or degenerative conditions of the ovaries or adrenal glands. This single surge can cause the growth of antlers in velvet.
Research indicates that does with antlers in velvet tend to be reproductively functional, or have malformed reproductive tracts.
Deer researcher John Ozoga noted that the average antlered doe exhibits velvet growth seldom exceeding 9½ inches in length.
To get technical, there are two additional classifications regarding antlered deer. There is the true hermaphrodite. A doe that falls in this category would have both male and female organs. However the male organs are faint and not outwardly identifiable.
The second type is the Pseudohermaphrodite or cryptorchid. In these cases the animal would have internal male organs which would be difficult to identify.
Other conditions include does with degenerated ovaries from old age or diseased ovaries.
A question many sportsmen ask, “Can an antlered doe produce fawns?” The short answer is yes, in certain circumstances.
Rue’s research revealed a four year old doe killed near Mercer, PA, in April of 1967. In this case the doe was just starting to grow a new set of antlers, yet definitely identified as a female and at the time was carrying triplet fawns.
It is also interesting to learn that the occurrence of antlered doe are not compartmentalized but distributed across the state.
Plain and simple, the white-tail deer that Mitch Klark brought home with his dad is unique. That in itself sure does give him something to talk about now and for the rest of his life.
Mitch’s antlered doe was preserved and mounted in the European style by Cessna’s Taxidermy. It is interesting that during the taxidermy process the deer’s teeth were checked for age and the doe was estimated to be three and a half years old.
Looking to the future he was asked, “What would you like to do next?” Mitch’s reply was, “I want to hunt for squirrels.”
Andy also pointed out that Mitch has a desire to learn how to trap. He said, “If Mitch wants to trap, we will learn about trapping together.”
By the sounds of things these two outdoorsmen have a lot to look forward to, this season, and for many years to come.
q q q
Charlie Burchfield is an active member and past president of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association, an active member of the Professional Outdoor Media Association, Outdoor Writers Assoc. of America and the Mason-Dixon Outdoor Writers. Gateway Outdoors e-mail is GWOutdoors@comcast.net