Year-Round Fuzzy Antlered Bucks

Kids Outdoor Outpost - February 2020

Joe Schuster | January 31, 2020

It is said that if you hunt long enough, you’re going to see some pretty interesting things in the woods. Sure, you can see some special things on your first hunt. However, with most critters (especially deer), just when you think you’ve got them figured out, they do something different and you might see some pretty strange things.

This past season, I got to see a young fawn that still had its spots in December. I wrote about that one last month. We also had a decent-sized buck on our trail camera that looked like it had a club-type growth on its antler. We were not sure if it was a deformity or a drop tine, and that buck never showed up again after the summer.

In December, I got information that a large-antlered buck had been killed in Tennessee. Like most deer hunters, I pulled up the story and dug into it. The deer had 13 scorable points and a Boone and Crockett score of 191 inches and apparently was 6 1/2 years old. The hunter had been after this big guy for about 3 1/2 years.

Having deer-cam photos of him made him pretty easy to recognize. The brute had his massive antlers covered in velvet—year-round. He was what is known as a “cryptorchid,” which is a male deer that failed to have one or both testes drop into the scrotum. It is not tied to genetics and happens rarely and randomly.  A birth defect prevents the testicle from dropping and it stays in the abdominal cavity. So, they lack the typical amount of testosterone that normal bucks have.

As we have covered in previous Outdoor Outposts, the shortening of daylight hours in the fall cause an increase in testosterone, the blood flow going to the antlers is decreased and calcium begins to harden a buck’s rack. Necks begin to swell as they begin to exhibit dominance by making scrapes, rubbing trees and other typical male rutting behavior that also includes sparring and fighting. This is not so with the “crypto” buck. His neck does not swell, and he does not breed.

If you’ve dropped a rutting buck and field-dressed it, you certainly did not miss the unmistakable smell on the tarsal glands of the hocks. The crypto buck does not urinate on its tarsal glands, which is what makes that strong smell.

The one thing that a crypto buck does have is antlers, and man, can they grow! Staying in velvet year-round, they also can grow some pretty severe deformities which often yield a number of small points on their beams, which is why they may also called “cactus” bucks.

These deer are truly a rarity amongst our deer herds. Perhaps next season you may even have the chance to see one on your deer cam or from the stand.

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