Every hunter dreams of harvesting the perfect trophy deer, but few ever find one as unique as the one Brian Hamman of Culver brought down last year.
About four years ago, Hamman was hunting when he spied what he thought was a whitetail buck. Though it caught his attention, he decided not to shoot it that day.
“The rack (antlers) was just so unique, but I wasn’t going to shoot it because it wasn’t a monster buck,” he said.
Aside from the unique antlers, there was something in the deer’s behavior that caused Hamman to take a second look. That was when Hamman, who has hunted since age 12, realized he may not be dealing with a buck at all, but a doe.
The deer took off, and Hamman did not see it again for a long time.
For the next three years, Hamman tried to harvest the doe, but despite his 34 years’ experience, she always eluded him.
“She was the hardest deer I’ve ever hunted,” he said.
However, this gave Hamman time to study the deer’s behavior to make sure she was what he thought she was.
“I was 99 percent sure she was a doe,” he said.
Eventually, persistence paid off. On Sunday, Nov. 13, 2011, the day after firearms season opened, Hamman took his muzzle loader into the woods and brought down the deer. He examined it and his suspicions were confirmed.
“I just thought it was unique that I got to go out for three years and study her,” he said. “I didn’t shoot just some odd deer to find out it was a female.”
Indiana Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Lt. John Karris saw the deer shortly after Hamman shot it and confirmed that it was, indeed, a doe.
“He showed it to me the day after he had harvested the animal just because it was so unique and he wanted to have a witness to it,” Karris said.
Hamman recently took the doe to Wild Wings Taxidermy to have it stuffed and mounted. The doe will be on display at Jim’s Archery in LaPaz beginning Nov. 6.
According to Linda Byer of the Indiana DNR, while antlered does do exist, they are extremely rare.
“Antlers come on deer in the spring due to a spike in testosterone levels,” she said. “A doe with a slight spike in testosterone levels can start to grow antlers, but they never get out of the velvet stage.”
There is also a second spike in the fall, she added, and if a doe has this second spike, she will begin to polish her antlers, just like a buck.
Antlered does in velvet, Byer said, are able to reproduce while antlered does that have the second testosterone spike are sterile.
Likewise, there are male deer that do not fully mature, and so their antlers remain in velvet. As with any mammal, there are also deer that possess both male and female reproductive organs.