Image002_2 Image001_2 Have you seen a black buck? I haven’t, but they’re out there and this photo proves it. I received this photo a while back and it clearly shows a black buck, albeit a muley, amongst a bachelor group of bucks. This phenomenon is rare and if you’ve seen it in whitetails send us a photo. The scientific name for this syndrome is melanism and deer that have this affliction are melanistic. Many animals are subject to this change in color and it is caused by an abnormally dark pigmentation of the skin or other tissues, resulting from a disorder of pigment metabolism. This creates a high concentration of melanin in the skin, hair, fur or feathers to accentuate a dark color.

Th942_mark_kayser_and_ken_barrett_w Here’s my one run-in with the disorder. Several years back I was turkey hunting with my good friend Ken Barrett on one of South Dakota’s Indian reservations. Early on during the hunt we stumbled across a dark-colored gobbler and Ken immediately dubbed him “Darth Vader.” Our next several days were consumed with tagging the dark Lord. With some conniving we finally duped the cagey bird and discovered he indeed was inflicted with melanism.

Mother Nature doesn’t always follow the textbooks so be on the lookout for some of these oddities and curiosities. That way when you do come across a black whitetail you won’t be perplexed by the strange color and allow a unique trophy to escape. And after you tag the buck; be sure to inspect the buck closely to see if the buck is indeed melanistic. He may have just stumbled in some of Jed Clampett’s black gold creating even a better opportunity for you if you can find the source. Good Luck!—Mark Kayser