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Minnesota Hunter Tags Triple-Beamed ‘Unicorn’ Buck

The third beam forks into two equal-sized tines
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Minnesota unicorn buck with three beams
The hunter shows off the rare buck; a photograph of the buck that was later shared to social media. Chase Mortenson, Derek Benda / Facebook

Chase Mortenson of Madison, Minnesota killed an extraordinarily rare whitetail buck on his uncle’s property in Granite Falls on Sunday. The deer has since been dubbed the “unicorn buck” for the third beam protruding from its forehead. 

Mortenson took to Facebook to share a photo of the unusual buck. Its heavy main beams sprout five tines on its right side and three on its left. The third beam is nearly as thick as the other two, and it forks into two equal-sized tines. 

Mortenson was hunting from a tree stand when he took the shot, the Learfield Wire Service reported. He initially thought he missed the buck, but then found it just 20 yards from his stand. It isn’t clear whether Mortenson was hunting with a bow or a muzzleloader. He did not immediately respond to request for comment.

His Facebook post received lots of support and warm wishes from friends, including one commenter who posted a video of the buck walking through what looks like a parking area near a power line in broad daylight. The angle shows how the third pedicle is wedged between the buck’s eyes, warping the left eye socket.  

minnesota unicorn buck walking through parking lot
The footage shows how the third antler warps the buck’s face. Derek Benda / Facebook

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It’s not unheard of to see bucks with horn growing from their faces. Davey Stuckey of Ohio shot an old monster with a 9-inch drop tine and a 2-inch antler growing from its tear duct on Oct. 31, 2022. Similarly, fellow Minnesotan Carson Reeve shot a triple-beamed buck on Nov. 6, 2022.

Some triple-beamed bucks result from a prior year’s antler not shedding and the new one growing up underneath it. But why an antler would grow out of a whitetail’s face, inches away from the two main beams, is less clear. The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources gives some explanation, pointing out that a buck’s hormones will allow it grow antlers wherever a pedicle can take root.

“The most interesting aspect of this antler growth tissue is that, if it is surgically removed and grafted to another part of the deer’s body, it will grow there,” the Virginia DWR writes. “For example, it would be possible to surgically produce a unicorn deer or a deer with 10 antlers growing out of its skull or any other part of the body.”

A correction was made on Dec. 7, 2023: A previous version of this article misidentified the legal methods of take in Unit 281 and adjacent units on Nov. 26. It has been updated to reflect that bow and muzzleloader seasons were open at the time.