Smith noted that aside from being thick and lush, the velvet was virtually impenetrable. Typically, at this time of year, any leftover velvet is withered and easy to remove with a fingernail. But try as he may, he couldn’t even scratch the covering. What’s more, the velvet antlers seemed to grow directly into the deer’s skull—no pronounced, mushroomed collar or burrs near the pedicle. Dr. Samuel said that clue only reinforces his opinion about the deer’s low-testosterone condition.
“Older deer with this condition become cactus bucks because they don’t shed their antlers and a new set tries to grow on top of the old one. It makes them look really weird around the base. But given that he has a relatively symmetrical frame, I’d say this is its first rack after some kind of testicular injury,” Dr. Samuel says. “This condition can also have a similar effect in does, only in those cases, the females carry velvet antlers because they have too much testosterone—not the other way around. A doe’s racks stay in velvet and doesn’t shed, the same as a buck.”
Low testosterone could also explain why Smith’s buck showed no signs of rutting behavior or reaction to his grunt calls. Without normal levels, the urge to mate likely wasn’t a passing thought.
“The good news is low testosterone levels don’t affect meat quality at all,” Dr. Samuel says. “But I don’t know if this condition would make him sterile. While the deer has reduced testosterone, I wouldn’t think he’d lose the ability to mate, but there’s a good chance he’s lost the desire. It all depends on how much testosterone he’s working on.”
After close inspection, Smith says he couldn’t find any injury that might suggest the deer’s low testosterone levels were the result of non-biological factors, and that while it’s certainly not the biggest buck he’s dispatched, it ranks high on his whitetail resume.
“There was nothing on the deer that made me think it had been injured,” Smith says. “It was a large bodied deer, his coat was in great shape and thick, but his neck wasn’t swollen like you’d expect to see at this time of year. And when I field dressed, he had the proper parts. In all respects, he looked like a normal deer, just with a bunch of hair on his rack,” Smith says. “It’s not often that you can see a buck that you didn’t even know could exist, then be able to hunt him for five days straight, and harvest him at the end. That’s made this all that much more special. It’s quite a trophy—a pretty cool deer.”