‘It didn’t have the [male parts] but it had the other parts’
by Beth Altena
The huge rack on the deer Jerry White shot in Cedar Springs on Monday, Nov. 15, opening day of firearm season for whitetail deer in Michigan, was the most impressive White had bagged. The deer was large for a buck, too, but when White rolled the deer over to field dress it, he noticed something was missing.
The deer was a rare antlered doe with female anatomy and the huge, 10-point rack was still in full, heavy velvet.
“It didn’t have parts it’s supposed to have. It’s very unique,” said White.
He shot the deer from about 100 yards out. He had noticed the big animal during bow season and had told his wife about it. White, of Allendale, took the deer on property near the intersection of 18 Mile Road and Harvard Avenue.
Charles “Chuck” Navitskas, was also hunting in Cedar Springs on opening day. His son shot a doe, which started to run, and while it crashed by an antlered deer also ran, giving Navitskas just a moment to take his shot. His deer fell immediately, and when father and son went to field dress their pair of animals, Navitskas’ son noticed something odd about the six-point his dad had taken.
“It didn’t have the [male parts] but it had the other parts,” Navitskas stated.
His deer was not a true antlered doe, but was a deer which was neither fully male nor female, a genetic anomaly. His deer was also in velvet, the soft covering over the antlers which males normally have rubbed off prior to the start of hunting season. Navitskas shot his strange deer between Keller and Tisdale avenues off 18 Mile Road.
Both animals were taken to Barb’s Deer Processing in Rockford, where owner Barb Haveman was very surprised, first by the antlered doe, and then doubly by the second genetically unusual deer.
“These are the first I’ve seen and I’ve been doing this over 50 years,” Haveman said of the two animals.
Haveman stated she has been processing over 50 deer a day at her facility, where 10 people, including her daughter, are hard at work. She calls this year a good season, so far, and last year processed over 850 deer during the season. She said the first doe-buck was a large animal by any standards, much less for a female deer. She called the 10-point rack impressive.
The Department of Natural Resources and Environment agreed that both deer are rare, and the first extremely unusual. They report that one or two antlered does or deer with genetic abnormalities come in during Michigan’s deer season. William McKinley, a deer program leader, reports that all deer are developed in the womb with the potential to grow horns, and the cowlicks on a fawn’s head show indicate the pedicles from which horns develop. Non-male deer may develop antlers from hermaphroditism, testosterone, tumors or from conditions in the womb which may cause a male and female pair of twins to share placental fluid.
McKinley calls hermaphroditism—an animal with both male and female true genetalia—“interesting to discover.” He said more common is pseudohermaphrodites, which have an anomaly of external genitalia which resemble those of the opposite sex.
“They can really confuse you,” he stated.
He said studies show one in 900 deer in Michigan have irregular sexual anatomy and most non-true males with antlers are spiked in velvet.
Haveman called the phenomenon of the two deer, shot within miles of each other on the same day, “weird,” and said this is the strangest thing she has ever seen in all her years of deer processing. She said the deer were not shot on the same property, but within two miles of each other and wonders if it is in their genetics—that the two animals may be related to each other.
Regardless of the familial relationship between the two non-male antlered deer White and Navitskas shot, each hunter couldn’t be happier with their kills.
“I feel very special,” said White. “If I ever shot a deer bigger than this, it would be good, but this is a trophy of a lifetime and I’m very proud of it.”
White’s deer will be mounted and on display in March at the Ultimate Sport Show at the DeVos Place in Grand Rapids.