I often take a walk just after sunrise. I spend this time listening to the Creator, thinking about my day, and getting exercise. I often walk from my house down a mountain that drops 400’ in elevation to a creek crossing. There is a food plot we call Barn Field just across the creek. This morning as I approached the creek, I noticed a dead deer in the Barn Field food plot. I quickly examined the deer for signs that it was killed by a poacher. There was no blood obvious on the deer, the surrounding ground, or near the nostrils, which is common for deer that have been shot anywhere in the chest cavity.
I didn’t notice any boot marks, ATV tracks, etc. I walked back up the mountain and called my local conservation officer to notify him. I then changed clothes, grabbed a knife, camera, etc., and went back down the mountain to do a necropsy (examination of a non-human body after death) on the yearling buck. Brad and I examined the deer closely as it was lying, then turned it over and instantly noticed a hole between the last two ribs. There was no exit wound and the hole didn’t look like it was made by a broadhead or bullet. I felt the wound channel, but nothing felt abnormal.
I began the necropsy by removing the skin from the opposite side of the buck. There was no sign of an exit wound or trauma. I then opened the chest cavity and the lungs and heart were in good condition. There was no excess blood in the chest cavity.
I removed the skin from around the wound area and noticed there was significant bruising just below the wound entrance. I then exposed the liver and noticed a lobe of the liver where the wound hole had been torn and excessive blood had pooled. The conservation officer, Mr. Quenten Fronterhouse, used a metal detector to confirm that there was no projectile (bullet or broadhead) in the deer. We placed a bullet in the deer to test the unit (I always like confirmation that tools are working) and it detected it without any problems.
The final diagnosis was cause of death by an antler gore – this yearling buck was killed as a result of a fight! I don’t know where the fight occurred. It was not in that plot as we didn’t locate any scuff marks. It doesn’t matter. Life for a deer is not like what Disney portrayed in the movie Bambi. To the contrary, it is full of danger.
There were other valuable lessons learned this morning. I took the opportunity to inspect the buck’s stomach content and it was full of soybean leaves, some green soybean pods, a few kernels of corn (probably from the adjacent food plot which has corn), and some pokeberry fruit. There were no acorns. Knowing what deer are currently eating is a major scouting tool.
Natural mortality is a common event for all wild critters that often goes unnoticed to human observers. This buck just happened to die where I normally walk. Talk a walk soon. You never know what you might find.
Growing Deer together,