Story originally published Dec. 10, 2008
Everything seemed perfect for Mike Smith.
His scouting, stand location and shot were all on.
The whitetail wore the kind of 27-point, gnarly non-typical rack most hunters only dream about.
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But something totally expected was missing.
"When I rolled it over there was nothing male-looking on the deer," said Smith, of Clay Center. "I looked at the back end and it was definitely a doe. That was a real surprise."
Not only was the deer he shot Dec. 3, on the opening of firearms deer season, a rare antlered white-tailed doe, it may be the largest antlered doe ever shot in the world.
The rack was measured at about 179 inches.
Doe deer occasionally have antlers, said Tom Bowman, a retired Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks biologist, avid hunter and official Boone & Crockett scorer.
He's had several in the taxidermy business he's operated in Wakefield for more than 20 years.
The antlers on Smith's doe were covered in velvet. That's a soft covering usually found on the outside of antlers as they're growing. Bucks normally rub the velvet from their antlers in the late summer.
Bowman said doe antlers are frequently covered in velvet. Does seldom shed their antlers, like bucks do annually.
Smith, an avid bowhunter, went into this fall's deer seasons knowing at least two great deer were around his hunting grounds.
One was a very nice buck with typical antlers he'd captured on trail camera photos.
The other turned out to be the big doe.
"A guy I know drives by the place I hunt as he goes to work about every day," Smith said. "He told me a deer had crossed the road with 'two of those hangy-down-thingies' so I knew there was some kind of non-typical around."
Seeing neither buck he wanted during archery season, Smith sat on a stand near an alfalfa field on the Dec. 3 opening of firearms deer season, holding a .25-06 instead of a bow.
Several little bucks entered the field that afternoon. At dusk he spotted another buck back in the timber.
"I immediately saw it had double drop tines. When I looked with binocs I could see it was still in velvet," Smith said. "I couldn't get a shot at it back in the woods. It sure seemed to take its time coming through a little wooded draw before I could get a shot."
He figured the strange antler configuration and velvet was because a buck had gotten injured while the antlers was growing, which sometimes happens with whitetails.
The 100 yard shot was easy and on-the-money. Smith didn't notice his "buck of a lifetime" was a doe until after he tried to load the deer into his truck.
Bowman was surprised when Smith arrived to get an unofficial score. It tallied about 179 gross inches of antler and should net-score around 164 non-typical inches.
"It was basically just a conglomeration of points. The longest point was maybe about six inches," Bowman said. "It had an ugly, ugly rack."
Unfortunately for Smith he can't find any record-keeping system specifically for antlered does.
An online search found a highly touted "world record doe" from Iowa that grossed about 155 inches.
Smith plans on getting a life-sized mount of the deer with the velvet still on the antlers.
He's hoping the deer gets a lot of attention and is willing to talk with most media for free.
"I'm not trying to get rich. That's not why I hunt," he said. "I really appreciate it as being a very rare animal and I want people to see it. I think a lot of people will really enjoy seeing it and learning about an antlered doe."