Usually, a deer, elk, or moose catches our attention because of the size of its antlers. You are, after all, more likely to get struck by lightning or hit a Grand Slam in a Major League Baseball game than you are to kill a world-class animal. But these 14 critters have stuck with us not because of their rack sizes but because of their curious adaptations, appearances, and deformities. They are true anomalies of the wild, rarer, in many cases, than many record-book trophies. Count yourself lucky if you ever spot one in the woods—then make sure to send Field & Stream a photo.
The All-Black Texas Whitetail
While hunting in Stephens County, Texas, 14-year-old Brooke Bateman and her father spotted what they first thought was an Angus calf. Upon further inspection, however, they realized that it was an ultra-rare all-black whitetail. Not only was the melanistic 6-pointer one of the most elusive trophies in North America, it was also Brooke’s first deer. Not a bad start, eh?
The 10-Point Kansas Doe
Jerika Francis thought she had tagged a perfectly normal 10-pointer—until her husband began butchering it and noticed “some parts were missing.” Much to Jerika’s surprise, the deer turned out to be an antlered doe, the result of a genetic anomaly that affects a mere 1 in 100,000 female whitetails.
The Three-Legged Wisconsin Bruiser
Todd Reabe noticed that a gimpy, three-legged buck with an odd spread of antlers had become a regular on his property and decided to target the whitetail, suspecting it had been hit by a car. Upon killing the deer and performing an autopsy, Reabe discovered a broadhead, from an unknown bowhunter, buried in the deer’s back leg. Yet the deer had managed to survive despite the handicap. “He was an absolute freak of nature when it came to survival,” Reabe told QDMA, noting that the deer had lived through a harsh winter in an area with a high predator density.
The White Swedish Moose
A Swedish man named Hans Nilsson purportedly spent three years searching for a mythical white moose before he finally came across one this summer, as it crossed a stream. And no wonder it took him so long: Fewer than 100 of these moose—which lack color owing to a genetic mutation, not albinism—are believed to reside in the country. Videos of the encounter have already been seen more than 4 million times.
The Cactus Georgia Buck
For three seasons members of the Bostwick family pursued an odd-looking buck near their Georgia home. But it was 19-year-old Mary, who hadn’t hunted in several years, who at last dropped the deer, which had cactus-like velvet antlers, resulting from an injury.
The South Dakota Piebald Elk
South Dakota hunter Jason Schnackenberg watched this piebald elk, which stood out clearly from its herd, for a year before he had a chance to tag it. The cow’s white coloring stems from an inherited genetic trait that can get passed down through a population for generations.
The Unicorn Buck of South Dakota
Killing a Booner is rare, but killing a Booner with a third antler growing out of its head is in a whole ’nother league. But that’s what Curt Fischer did, when he tagged this 170-inch unicorn buck, with a 7½-inch extra point. He had spotted the deer on his trail cams the year prior, and got a shot at it the following season, dropping it at 120 yards.
The 24-inch North Carolina Spike
Spike bucks typically don’t inspire much excitement, unless, of course, those single points happen to be 2 feet long. Dennie Bowman was lucky enough to kill this exceptional trophy, which was estimated to be a 10- to 12-year-old buck, with a rack on the way down.
A Rare Wisconsin Mule Deer
Wisconsin is known for its monster whitetails, which is why, in 2015, Randy Haines arrowed one of the most unlikely bucks in state history—an impressive mule deer buck. The deer, the first muley killed in Wisconsin since 1988, likely wandered over from South Dakota, some 600 miles away.
The Mississippi Whitetail With Moose Antlers
In 2013, Hunter Bower of Vaughn, Miss., killed a 30-point buck. But the deer was a far cry from a standard non-typical. The deer had so much palmation that it appeared to have moose antlers that didn’t at all resemble those of a normal whitetail.
The Pennsylvania Triple-Drop-Tine Bruiser
Most hunters dream of putting their crosshairs on a buck with even just one drop tine. Mike Speaker, however, managed to drop a 195-6/8-inch triple-drop-tine buck, a true freak of the whitetail woods. Some guys have all the luck.
The Bullwinkle Whitetail of Mississippi
This unfortunate whitetail had the displeasure of resembling the cartoon moose Bullwinkle, given its swollen nose, the result of infection. Though a handful of Bullwinkle deer has popped up since 2005 or so, the cause of the deformity remains unknown. The enlarged nose likely causes a deer discomfort, but the Quality Deer Management Association believes that the infection is not fatal.
The Alberta Muley With “Melted” Antlers
Justin Eckert spends most of his time outdoors guiding other hunters. He was the one, however, who got to pull the trigger on this peculiar buck, the antlers of which look as though they have melted or wilted from the heat. Eckert speculates that the deer survived a serious fever during velvet, causing the antlers to develop abnormally.
Afghanistan’s Vampire Deer
For the first time in half a century, the endangered Kashmir musk deer made a rare appearance in Afghanistan, in 2014. The deer’s fanged teeth—used by males to compete for breeding rights during mating season—give the deer a vampire-like appearance. But it’s the deer’s scent glands that locals care about, which are believed to have pharmaceutical properties. Unfortunately, the deer are highly sought-after for their glands, which has led to their declining numbers.