Earl Phillips was bowhunting his property in Clifton, Virginia when he arrowed an extremely unusual deer—an antlered doe with a fully-formed 8-point rack. When Phillips first saw the deer, he thought it was a whitetail deer buck.

“I’d been seeing the deer on my trail camera for about three weeks,” Phillips tells F&S. On Sunday, November 20, he decided to hunt in the afternoon after a cold front rolled in. “I got in at about 2 p.m. I heard a little rustling, and I saw one buck come he was being pushed away. Then I saw the bigger buck come. He came within 20 yards of me. I double-lung shot him, and tracked him for maybe 30 yards.”

Shortly after Phillips walked up to the “big buck,” he realized something was amiss. The deer had a fully-formed rack—and female external reproductive organs. “I immediately knew I needed to call somebody,” says Phillips. “I’ve heard stories and done a little bit of research on antlered does. I knew this was definitely a rare harvest. It would’ve been my best buck to date, and I’m a pretty avid hunter.”

Is It a True Antlered Doe?

hunter holds head of antlered deer behind pickup truck
Phillips (pictured) thought the deer was a buck when he first spotted it. Earl Phillips

Phillips called a federal biologist at Fort Belvoir, who told Phillips the deer did in fact appear to be a doe—and that it may even have been in heat. F&S reached out to the National Deer Association (NDA) for more info about antlered deer. Without being able to examine its internal reproductive organs, the conservation group was unable to definitely say whether the deer was a true antlered doe or a hermaphroditic deer.

“A true doe with antlers that has functioning doe reproductive organs and can actually produce fawns, but also has antlers would be extremely rare,” says Lindsay Thomas, NDA Chief Communications Officer. “More commonly what you see in cases like this is hermaphrodites, which have some mix of both male and female reproductive organs, but none really functional, or cryptorchid bucks…The fact this deer has hard antlers is unusual. If it is a functional doe with functional antlers, it would be the rarest of all the ‘intersex’ conditions seen in deer.”

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Phillips says the deer weighed 190 pounds. “I’m a meat hunter. This is the first deer I’ve actually wanted to go after because of the unique antlers, as well as its size. Even not knowing it was a doe, it was a solid 8-pointer. This is the first deer I’m going to get mounted.”

“I deal with PTSD. A lot of times, I’m just in the woods for mental clarity and have time to sit and think,” he adds. “For me, harvesting this deer was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I just want to share it with as many people as possible.”