Hunters from all parts of the country come to Kansas hoping to shoot a buck with a trophy-class set of antlers.
Well, for Chuck Rorie, half of the dream came true Wednesday afternoon when he shot what he thought was a nice buck. Instead, the set of eight-point antlers were attached to a doe.
“I didn’t think much about it; it just looked like a nice buck when I was watching it and shot it,” said Rorie, of Monroe, N.C. “But when I was skinning it I realized something didn’t look right. It didn’t have the right private parts.
“I whispered to my dad to look because I didn’t want to sound like some (dummy). When he looked, said he saw (female parts), too.
“I’m tickled to death. I know this is a once in a lifetime thing.”
According to biologists, it’s actually more like a once in many lifetimes thing.
“I think the last number I heard at a scientific meeting was something like one in about 10,000 will have antlers,” said Grant Woods, a Missouri-based biologist with 25 years’ experience researching whitetail deer who hosts a television show on deer management. “It’s rare, but it’s certainly going to happen.”
Keith Sexson, assistant secretary for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, has been with the agency for 46 years, mostly as a biologist. He estimates he has heard of no more than 15 antlered does in Kansas in all that time.
“Really, that may be a high number,” he said. “I know it hasn’t been very often.”
Woods said does with antlers are simply does with high amounts of testosterone, a hormone found in all does, though normally in very low amounts. It happens in most species of mammals.
“Excessive testosterone is why some women have more facial hair than others,” he said. “In deer, that’s expressed in antler growth.”
Woods also said that in-depth research on antlered does is fairly limited, but added that most does with antlers only have short, spindly antlers. Rorie’s 225-pound doe had fairly thick antlers about 17 inches wide, with eight normal-size points. He said his doe’s antlers were also shiny and rock-hard, like you would expect from a buck’s headgear.
Frequently, according to Woods, antlered does have fuzzy antlers still covered in what’s known as velvet, a soft covering antlers have when they’re growing. In bucks, that’s basically May through August. High testosterone levels cause bucks to rub the velvet from their antlers before the autumn breeding season, and to eventually shed their antlers in the winter so a new set can begin growing.
Most does that have enough hormone to spur antler growth lack enough testosterone to cause the deer to polish or shed their antlers. Again, that’s what helps make Rorie’s whitetail pretty unique.
“They just looked like a nice set of eight-point antlers,” Rorie said. “You could see tree bark on the antlers where she’d been rubbing them against trees, like a buck.”
Rorie was hunting in western Sedgwick County with Anthony Youngers, a native of that area now living in North Carolina. Youngers, and his Kansas family, hosted Rorie and several others from North Carolina on their family farm and property owned by neighbors.
Wednesday was opening day of firearms deer season, and Rorie was in a wooden ground blind overlooking a hay field. Several does came out to feed. In a few minutes three young bucks came to the field and started chasing those does around the field, hoping to get a chance to breed.
What Rorie thought was the fourth buck was last to come out on to the field. Impressed with the antlers, he shot it.
In hindsight he said he should have noticed that deer’s neck wasn’t swollen like those of the other lust-fueled bucks, and the deer was also colored more like the does in the field than the bucks. It also wasn’t chasing the does.
“It was … trying to follow the does around, but they wanted nothing to do with her,” Rorie said. “I guess they saw the antlers and just assumed.”
Though rare and impressive, the antlers on Rorie’s doe are far from the largest ever found on a female whitetail deer. Woods said many antlered does have clusters of points going in all directions, known as cactus racks. They happen because the antlers don’t completely harden, or fall off, and each year more and more keep growing.
In 2008, a Kansas hunter near Clay Center shot a doe with 27 points and 179 inches of antler based on the Boone and Crockett scoring system.
The antlers of Rorie’s Kansas deer score about 115 inches, and he has plans on getting the deer mounted. No matter whether on a buck or on a doe, he said the antlers would be considered exceptional around his home in North Carolina.
“We don’t have many big bucks,” he said. “So when a guy brings a buck into the processor I’ll be able to tell him I’ve killed a doe a lot bigger than that buck they just shot.
“I’ll have a lot of fun with this.”
Reach Michael Pearce at 316-268-6382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.