When asked to describe his 18-point, massive, 185-inch buck killed Jan. 13 in the Mississippi Delta, 15-year-old Ross Carpenter didn’t use words like trophy or beautiful or anything like that.
No, he went another direction, the obvious way, choosing a true description.
“It’s weird,” said Carpenter, a 10th-grader at Pillow Academy, who paused a bit before adding, “he didn’t have testicles.”
His is one of those odd deer called a cactus buck, the nickname given to a testicular-challenged buck male that lacks the testosterone in its body to allow it to cycle through the normal antler phases. The malady could be caused by a birth defect or an injury.
Instead of growing and shedding antlers each year, a cactus buck keeps the same set, usually covered in hard mossy-looking velvet. In many respects, the hardware on its head become less like antlers and more like horns, which are never shed, like on a goat or a bull.
They just get bigger, and thicker, and, in most cases, very gnarly.
Carpenter’s buck did all of those.
The deer had massive bases, 8 inches on one side and 7 on the other. The circumferences between the brow tines (G1s) and the G2s were both 6½ inches.
Gnarly? Yes, it had oddities, like two impressive drop tines. The right brow tine was split in two with both points measuring about 5 inches. The right G3 had three sticker points. There is an assortment of odd little — and big — bumps and notches, or as Ross Carpenter said, “a bunch more stickers and stuff.”
Ross was hunting with his dad, Glenn Carpenter, at the farm he owns near Money in Leflore County.
“We think it’s a main-frame 10-point,” Glenn Carpenter said. “We had the taxidermist measure him and he came up with a 185-inches gross score.”
Unburdened by the desire to procreate, cactus bucks don’t chase does, make scrapes or rub on trees.
“Apparently,” Ross Carpenter said, “they just like to eat and sleep.”
Which, of course, allows them to get big.
“We didn’t weigh him, but I figure he weighed at least 250 pounds, I know Dad and I couldn’t get him on the 4-wheeler.”
It was Glenn Carpenter who first discovered the oddity.
“I didn’t find (a scrotum) when I field dressed him,” he said. “I did find these little hard things in that channel (leading to the usual male parts). I guess those could have been his testicles, but I also noticed that he was missing part of its tail, so I guess it could have been an accident that left him that way.
“One of the first things I noticed was that it still had his velvet, but it wasn’t like normal velvet you see on a deer. It was harder and stiffer, kind of like it was shrink-wrapped on the antler. I’d never seen that. We also hunt some on some private land in Carroll County, in the hills, and I saw a buck there around Thanksgiving still in velvet, but it wasn’t the same thing. That’s a month later that usual, but it looked like normal velvet.”
Ross Carpenter has had great mentorship in hunting, through his dad, a dyed-in-the-wool deer hunter, and his grandfather, who loves duck hunting.
“Ross, he just likes to hunt it all,” Glenn Carpenter said.
The teenager has the best of both worlds, his dad said, often hunting ducks in the morning and deer in the afternoon. The area in which he killed the buck, oddly enough, was right next to the family’s duck hole, where they had shared a limit-out duck hunt just two days earlier.
“I guess I got to the stand between 2:30 and 3 o’clock,” he said. “It was cold, in the 20s. It was cold enough that some of the water was frozen. It was breezy, probably 7 to 8 miles per hour and was in my favor.”
Despite being immediately adjacent to the duck hole, where shotgun blasts had been numerous since the hole had filled with water and ducks, the Carpenters felt the buck could still be in the area.
“We had pictures of him Dec. 28, 29 and 30, in that area,” Ross Carpenter said. “My dad thought he saw him in June, in velvet, which would be normal, in our food plot in June.”
Said his dad: “In June, I noticed he was already big, heavy-horned, like a 150-inch deer, which is odd that time of year. They usually don’t get that big until a month or two later.”
The Carpenters had established the odd buck’s home area.
“We had a pretty good idea where he would be,” Ross Carpenter said. “After we got the pictures in December, the next time we checked the camera was June 9, and he was pretty much nocturnal but we had one picture of him at 5 o’clock.”
Ross said he thinks he may have jumped the buck on a trip to check the duck hole. “I saw a big heavy deer, and that’s all I could tell,” he said.
With all that data, the stand near the duck blind was chosen. For about an hour and a half, the afternoon was uneventful in the deer stand.
“I had seen a bunch of ducks come into the duck hole, about 200 yards away from my stand,” Ross Carpenter said. “I hadn’t seen anything else, until I looked around and thought I saw a doe. Then I looked closer and I saw it was two deer. I looked at one and it was a doe. Then I looked at the other, and it was him.”
The deer were about 60 to 70 yards away, on the other side of a ditch that had overflow from where the duck hole had backed up.
“They were walking along that water, looking for a place to cross, coming toward me,” Ross Carpenter said. “I’d get glimpses of them as they walked toward me. He wasn’t paying attention to her; actually, she was following him instead of what you’d expect from a normal buck.
“At 40 yards, he crossed and walked into an opening and gave me a shot. I hit him dead center of the shoulder, with him angling toward me. He bolted and went about 30 yards, and ran into a tree and fell over dead. It was 4:51”
Where the buck hit the tree was the only damage to the velvet on the odd antlers.
“I pulled the jawbone and the biologist said he was 4½,” Glenn Carpenter said. “I did a ride along with the biologist who wanted to ride around the Carroll County place, which is on the D-MAP program. I told him about Ross’ buck and he told me about deer with testicular problems. First I’d heard about it.
“I told Ross that his buck is a trophy in so many ways, and to enjoy it because the odds against him ever seeing another one like it are pretty long. He may kill bucks that score higher, but he probably won’t see anything like that one again.”
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