Earl Phillips was archery on his property in Clifton, Virginia when he shot an extremely unusual deer – an antlered doe with a fully formed 8-point rack. When Phillips first saw the deer, he thought it was a white-tailed deer.
“I had been watching the deer on my trail camera for about three weeks,” Phillips tells F&S. On Sunday, November 20, he decided to shoot in the afternoon as a cold front moved in. “I walked in around 2 p.m., heard a little rustle and saw a buck come running away. Then I saw more income. He came 20 meters away from me. I shot him with two lunges and tracked him for maybe 30 yards.”
As soon as Phillips approached the big buck, he realized something was wrong. The deer had a fully formed rack—and external female reproductive organs. “I immediately knew I had to call someone,” says Phillips. “I’ve heard stories and done a little research on horned thorns. I knew this was definitely a rare harvest. It would have been my best buck so far, and I’m a pretty avid hunter.”
Is a Doe True Antlered?
Phillips called a federal biologist at Fort Belvoir, who told Phillips that the deer actually appeared to be a doe — and that it may have been in heat. F&S Contact the National Deer Association (NDA) for more information about antlered deer. Without being able to examine its internal reproductive organs, the conservation group was unable to definitively say whether the deer was a true antlered deer or a hermaphrodite.
“A true antlered doe that has functional reproductive organs and can actually produce deer, but also has antlers, would be extremely rare,” says Lindsay Thomas, NDA’s Chief of Communications. “Most often what you see in cases like this are hermaphrodites, which have a mixture of male and female reproductive organs, but none really functional, or cryptorchids…The fact that this deer has strong antlers is unusual. If it is a functional doe with functional antlers, it would be the rarest of all the ‘intersex’ conditions seen in deer.”
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Phillips says the deer weighed 190 pounds. “I am a meat hunter. This is the first deer I wanted to go after because of its unique antlers as well as its size. Even not knowing it was a doe, it was a solid 8-pointer. This is the first deer I will ride.”
“I deal with PTSD. A lot of times, I’m alone in the woods for mental clarity and time to sit and think,” he adds. “For me, harvesting this deer was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I just want to share it with as many people as possible.”