It’s fitting, somehow. After logging 32 days in blind, tree stand, irrigation ditch or hunkered down on the edge of an alfalfa field since early September. After passing on hundreds of bucks. After second-guessing on my decision to let some of these deer walk. After being consumed with whitetails, I finally punched my Montana deer tag last evening, in the final hours of the 2010 hunting season. And it’s fitting — and uber-ironic — that the deer I ended up killing is not one I’ve seen before. In fact, it’s not even a whitetail (I don’t think). But in this season, when nothing went according to script, this was a hunt that had everything: suspense, drama, intensity, and unlike a whitetail hunt, plenty of physicality. Read the full story of the hunt here: Montana Odyssey
More about the buck
Eastern Montana mule deer tend to have thin, willowy antlers, and this buck has plenty of tine lengths (his G-1s are 13 and 13.5 inches), but not much mass. Advantage: Mule Deer
But a mule deer’s antlers don’t have a dominant main beam. Instead, they typically fork, and then fork off that first fork. This antler has a long, thin main beam with tines that just off the beam. Advantage: Whitetail
The rack’s right side is a slick 3-point, without so much as a brow tine. In that way, it’s a lot like our mule deer. The left side has 6 scoreable points, but they’re more like crab-clawing mule deer points than whitetail stickers. Advantage: Mule Deer
Viewed from the back, he looks like a tall-racked Texas whitetail. Advantage: Whitetail
But viewed from the side, he looks more like a mule deer that failed to grow back forks. Advantage: Mule Deer
His facial features and coat are all mule deer. Advantage: Mule Deer
But his body is relatively small for a mature mule deer. Advantage: Whitetail
Plus, he was kegged up with a dozen mule deer does when I first spotted him, and was actively chasing a couple of estrus does. Advantage: Mule Deer
This buck lived in a major tributary of the Milk River, which is plumb full of whitetails. In fact, less than 100 yards from where I first encountered this buck, I busted a whitetail doe from her bed. Advantage: Hybrid
The buck’s testicles were metastasized, a hard, cancerous lump that extended well into his abdomen. It’s possible that this deer was part stag, or a eunuch. If that’s the case, then the wavy, thin, dagger-long tines are probably that of a mule deer. Advantage: Mule Deer
When this buck was hit, he ran for the country he felt most comfortable in. It wasn’t the dense cottonwoods and willow groves of the creek valley. It was the high, open, sage-studded ridges of the prairie. Advantage: Mule Deer
What do you think Outdoor Life readers, is this buck a mule deer, whitetail or hybrid? Comment below.
Read the full story of my wild hunt in Montana here: Montana Odyssey
OL’s Hunting, Editor Andrew McKean, shot this northeastern Montana buck on the last day of the season. He assumed it was a tall, rangy mule deer, but the more he looked at the rack, the more he questioned its identity. Is it a cross between a mule deer and a whitetail?