One of the best parts about hunting is swapping experiences about the strange, exhilarating, or sometimes downright hilarious encounters you have had with deer. As much as we love them, deer can still be an odd and unpredictable species. With 2014 winding down, we decided to look back on this year’s list of weird deer—and there has been quite a lot. From unicorn deer to vampire deer to even cannabis-loving deer, it just goes to show that this amazing animal still has ways of surprising us.
So sit back and break out some venison sticks as we recount the strangest deer encounters this year—not all were harvested by hunters, but every one is unique in its own way.
1. The “unicorn” deer
Like fingerprints or snowflakes, no two sets of antlers are ever exactly alike. For humans they are a source of fascination and can be surprisingly useful, if the tools of our early ancestors and the powder flasks of the nineteenth century are any indicator. For deer, however, they have a single purpose: to secure their right to mate. So why do these bone structures vary so widely and drastically? Recently a hunter in Slovenia harvested what appeared to be a “unicorn”—only to find out that it was actually just a male roe deer with a strange antler formation. Another hunter thousands of miles away near Spokane, Washington also harvested a “unicorn” deer. That one was a not a buck at all, but a doe.
How and why do deer grow “unicorn” antlers? You can find out more here.
2. The “vampire” deer
These tiny deer, called the Kashmir musk deer, weigh only a couple dozen pounds, grow up to 28 inches tall at the shoulder, and are adapted more for climbing than for running. Perhaps their most obvious physical trait, however, are the knife-like tusks males grow to fight over mates. The elongated teeth give the deer a distinctly “vampiric” appearance, but fortunately for us, they subsist on a vegetarian diet.
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) announced in October that Kashmir musk deer have been spotted for the first time in 60 years in the remote forests of northeast Afghanistan. Musk deer were last sighted in the region by a Danish survey team in 1948.
3. The “trick or treat” deer
This trick-or-treater got a little more than just some candy for Halloween: it also got a nifty mask. Residents of Mentor, Ohio spotted this deer with its nose stuck in a plastic pumpkin shortly after Halloween and it was wandering all over town, trying to get it off.
The deer probably stuck its face into the pumpkin to get at whatever treats were inside, but quickly paid the price for its curiosity. Residents said that the pumpkin appeared to be stuck tightly around the deer’s mouth, making it difficult for the animal to eat or drink. Thankfully, a local teen was able to remove the contraption not too long afterwards.
4. The “donut service” deer
Some deer are extraordinarily docile, but we’ve never heard of any greeting people with treats before. That is apparently exactly what happened to this camper in Idaho’s Snake River Canyon. A young mule deer buck not only took the initiative to meet the man, but it even came with a powdered donut. In all likelihood, the sugary treat was placed there by another camper, but we would like to imagine that this buck just happens to have a cache of powdered donuts.
5. Sugar Bob, the cannabis-loving deer
Marijuana plants are hardly a staple in the diets of American cervids, but in Southern Oregon’s Applegate Valley, a deer by the name of “Sugar Bob” spends its days nibbling on marijuana leaves and the occasional bud. The medicinal marijuana farm Sugar Bob frequents belongs to Richard Davis, who became friends with the inquisitive deer and now considers it almost like another pet. As Davis tends to his plants, Sugar Bob will do his part by eating whatever drops onto the ground.
“He’s just eating a big bud, and he’s sitting there and as he’s chewing that he’s just getting sleepier and sleepier. his eyes are just—he’s getting ready to go out,” Davis told Oregon Public Broadcasting.
Can deer get intoxicated on cannabis? Find out more here.
6. The “UFO” deer
Trail cameras can sometimes catch images of strange things other than wildlife. According to WLOX, Rainer and Edith Shattles of Jackson County, Mississippi were reviewing footage from their 150-acre property when one image stood out. In it a deer stood with its back to the camera, staring at a pair of lights hovering off the ground.
“We have unusual things happen around here that happen, but it’s usually associated with our grandchildren. But this case, we didn’t know what it was,” Edith Shattles said. “I was looking for a nice buck to be showing up on the trail camera actually.”
Experts and employees of the company that made the trail cam, Moultrie, came up with a more plausible explanation. You can read about that here.
7. The “Godfather” deer
While it may look like a grisly trophy, the story behind the picture of the antler-locked bucks above is actually one of survival and endurance. Luke Laha, a wildlife management instructor in Kansas, described how he and his students rescued the antler-locked deer that had been carrying around the head of his rival. As it turns out, one of the bucks had perished while sparring, and the survivor was forced to carry around its dead opponent with coyotes hot in pursuit. The deer could do very little while predators slowly ate away at the other buck.
“It’s been stressed for the last few months, pulling around its own body weight and looking-eye-to-eye with coyotes,” Laha said.
The buck was already down when one of Laha’s students, Zack Sammons, mounted the animal and held it while he and Laha debated how to separate the two racks. Lacking a hacksaw, they ended up doing it by hand. You can see the aftermath below in a video Laha uploaded to YouTube.
8. The alligator deer
On August 16, a family of hunters in Alabama harvested a massive 1,011.5-pound alligator near Millers Ferry Dam in Wilcox County. The reptile was large enough to claim the Alabama state record and make a run for the title of the world’s heaviest, but what taxidermists found inside the alligator’s stomach may have been even more surprising. According to AL.com, taxidermist Ken Owens was preparing the large animal for a full-body mount when he discovered a partially-digested, yet intact three-year-old doe inside the reptile’s gut.
“I always thought that once an alligator killed something that it ate it a piece at a time,” Owens said. “I can’t imagine how it got ahold of that adult deer and ate it in one piece like that. It’s unbelievable.”
You can see a video of Ken Owens skinning the alligator below.
9. The “what’s that smell?” deer
How close can you get to a deer? Depending on what sort of gear and scent block you use, your level of hunting experience, the inexperience of the deer, and sheer blind luck, you may well get the chance to pet one of these wild animals. For Travis Schneider, some combination of those attributes rendered him nearly invisible to a pair of deer looking for forage.
10. The albino buck
At what point does bagging a deer become a mercy kill? For years, residents of Cape Girardeau County, Missouri had been reporting sightings of a mature albino buck in the woods. One hunter in particular had been keeping an eye on the old buck, and this year he decided to harvest the animal. According to KFVS12, bowhunter Jerry Kinnaman shot the buck on his property on December 2, and he said that it was probably the best way for the old deer to pass.
“He’s probably been shot a couple times by someone with a spotlight, probably been hit by a car a time or two,” the hunter claimed.
11. The behemoth deer
On October 12, hunter Joe Franz harvested a massive whitetail buck with a muzzleloader on his property in Iowa. Fortune has awarded this hunter the deer of a lifetime, but it was the foresight of the Trophy Pursuit team that put this incredible shot on camera. With a reported preliminary score of 258 and 7/8, this buck could very well be the largest ever taken while being filmed.
12. The “zombie” deer
All sportsmen strive to make clean, lethal shots when harvesting game. Not only is it a display of skill and marksmanship, it is also ethical. Sadly, that is not always the case and deer can be resilient critters. This young hunter managed to drop his deer not too far from his treestand, but he got an awful surprise as he approached his “kill.” Hopefully he was able to retrieve the deer afterwards.
What was your strangest deer encounter? Do you think it trumps the ones on our list? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below.