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Weird racks make for unusual deer trophies

Gary Chamlee of Rainsville bagged a number of unusual deer while hunting on his property in DeKalb County. This includes a whitetail buck still in velvet. Deer antlers look like velvet while growing, but they usually harden by the time hunting season begins in the fall.

Column by John Felsher; photos by Gary Chamlee

Keepers of white-tailed deer records list two different categories for antlers: typical and non-typical. However, some non-typicals look even more non-typical than most!

While hunting with his father Clinton Walston of Fyffe, Eli Walston shot possibly the buck of his lifetime at the ripe old age of 9 years old. They hunted on the Sapp Family farm next to property owned by Eli’s grandfather.

“We were out of school that week so my dad and I decided to go hunting for a couple hours before dark,” Eli recalls. “About 30 minutes before dark, we started walking back to the truck. The driveway is about 450 yards long. About halfway to the end of the driveway, I was looking through the binoculars and told Daddy I spotted a deer, but he didn’t believe me. He got out of the truck, looked thought the scope and then asked me if I wanted to shoot it. It was the biggest deer I ever had a chance to shoot.”

Already an experienced hunter with a 6-point buck to his credit, the young sportsman propped a .308 rifle on the truck tailgate and fired at the deer 252 yards away. When retrieving the 8-point buck, they didn’t notice anything unusual about it and brought Eli’s deer to a taxidermist. When they picked up the skull mount later, the taxidermist pointed out two small objects protruding from the top of the deer’s upper jaw.

A whitetail buck with a 4-inch third antler growing out of the middle of its head like a unicorn.

“When we picked up the deer, the taxidermist told us it had fangs,” Eli says. “We never noticed that before. The taxidermist said he had heard about deer like that, but had never seen another one. The taxidermist looked on the internet and said that only six other deer like that had ever been killed in the United States — six does and a spike buck. Mine was an 8-point, so it was the biggest deer like that ever recorded.”

Eli dubbed the fanged “vampire” deer “Buckcula.”

“I’ve been hunting since I was about 6 years old and never saw anything like it either,” echoes his father. “We bring it to hunting shows sometime and it always creates quite a stir.”

Gary Chamlee, a Walston family friend from nearby Rainsville, never saw another fanged “Buckcula” either. But he bagged more than his share of antlered oddballs while hunting his own property in DeKalb County. This list includes a 7-point antlered doe. Very rarely, a whitetail doe with an imbalance of hormones grows antlers just like a buck.

Another big-racked buck taken on that property really sticks out. By that, I mean this weird buck had about 10 inches of antler sticking out from under its left eye.

A whitetail buck with about a 10-inch antler sticking out from under its left eye.

“I’d get a game camera picture of it every now and then,” Chamlee says. “I hunted that deer pretty hard for a couple years, but I didn’t realize that that horn was there. In photos, it looked like he was sticking his tongue out. I was sitting in a ground blind and killed it with a bow. Nobody could explain to me why it had a 10-inch antler sticking out from under its left eye.”

Deer commonly grow deformed antlers for various reasons. Sometimes, deer suffer antler deformities stemming from genetics, maybe nutritional reasons or perhaps because of an injury. Unlike a cow with true horns, white-tailed deer shed their antlers each spring and regrow new ones by early fall. A deer that grows weird antlers one year because of an injury tends to repeat that pattern each year.

Chamlee mounted the “stick out” deer’s head and entered it in the Alabama Whitetail Records book. He also takes it to outdoor shows where it always attracts considerable attention.

“That deer dropped four inches from every point from the previous year,” Chamlee explains. “It was actually trying to grow another section behind that one. I guess it was pulling calcium out for that piece of antler to grow.”

On the same property, Chamlee bagged an odd deer sporting the usual pair of antlers on either side of its head. On this one, though, a third antler grew in the middle of its head.

“This property must have odd genetics,” Chamlee theorizes. “Some really neat deer came off this property. This deer had a 4-inch horn growing out of the middle of its head like a unicorn. I also killed an 8-point buck in velvet with what they call ‘devil points’ that stick straight out about an inch long. I never know what I might shoot on that property.”

John N. Felsher lives in Semmes, Ala. Contact him through Facebook.