The 10 Weirdest Deer of 2020
Everyone loves a little character, but these unique whitetails are just plain freaky
Whitetail bucks are known for their unique qualities. They’re like a fingerprint. While some might appear similar, no two are exactly alike. Still, some deer are so very different that they deserve a closer look. These 10 deer are the weirdest, ugliest, most interesting deer that were photographed last year.
A Bull-Headed Brute
A young hunter from Jackson County, Wisconsin, shared this photo with Outdoor Life, and while its rack and body appear relatively normal, its head certainly isn’t. While it’s possible infection is the answer, that doesn’t explain the seemingly short nose.
Of course, the hunter who shared the photo wished he’d tagged the buck, but he didn’t.
“I did not kill this deer, unfortunately, but the neighbors did,” he said. “I just have a trail cam pic of it.”
The Broken-Jaw Buck
Iowa deer hunter Noel Gandy decided to take his 10-year-old son afield during the second shotgun season. They were in search of his target buck: a deer nicknamed Doofus.
According to Gandy, the deer’s jaw appeared normal … originally. Then, due to what he believes was a case of compaction, the jaw broke and became malformed.
“This guy’s rack was fine, but he had a misaligned jaw for the past two years,” Gandy said. “He walked around with his tongue hanging out and constantly drooled. We called him Doofus because he looked like a cartoon character. My son made it his goal to put him out of his misery.”
On December 18, they caught up to the buck. They hunted from a box blind overlooking a standing soybean field. As daylight broke, deer started moving. They caught sight of their target buck, and that was that.
Gandy said they both miss seeing the buck on trail camera. “There was definitely a void in the woods when Doofus was gone,” says Gandy. “He enjoyed using a [salt] block during the summer. It looked like an ant eater eating a popsicle.”
Read Next: The 8 Weirdest Whitetails You’ve Ever Seen
Say’s Small-Racked Senior
Last season, Jason Say met up with one of the smallest-racked mature bucks you’ll ever see, and that’s pretty cool.
“I was spending two weeks with good friend Jon Collins hunting the last week of bow season, then the first three days of the modern firearm season,” Say said. “When arriving at Jon’s house, we took a look at a bunch of different deer on trail camera. Jon showed me a bunch of pics of bucks that all scored in the 140s, 150s and possibly even 160s. But there was one particular 6 ½-year-old buck that came up that Jon had pics of for the last three years.”
That was the deer, but he never saw the buck while bowhunting. Once gun season opened, things changed. It all came together on November 16.
It was a cold, crisp morning, and they were hunting right in the middle of the target’s core area. Sitting in a big oak tree, a large community scrape stained the ground 25 yards away. The stage was set.
About 15 minutes after shooting light, the old deer walked in behind them. Eventually, it stopped and started rubbing a tree. Say took the shot and connected. The buck ran 50 yards and tipped over.
“I was beyond excited,” Say said. “This deer is unique. I was excited to shoot this deer as much as any deer I have ever harvested. After processing the deer, we discovered that his back left leg had been broken and fused back together. I’m guessing that most likely caused his rack to look so funky.”
You can watch the hunt here.
The Missouri Freak Nasty
Michael Phillips likes to spend his time chasing Missouri whitetails, and this year, he tagged a big ol’ weird one he called Lefty. He only had two trail camera photos of the deer — one in May and one in early November — but knew it was the one he wanted. A neighboring hunter had seen him regularly, so Phillips knew he was still around.
On November 11, a cold front pushed through, and Phillips went to a small food plot he planted back in summer. Unfortunately, with pesky wind changes, three different deer blew at him. Right before he decided to climb down, the wind settled.
After a while, two nice bucks entered the plot. One bedded down. The other tended a scrape. Then, they looked up the hill toward a hill full of natural grasses. There stood Lefty in all of his lopsided glory.
Several minutes later, he entered the plot, made a rub at just 7 yards, and then offered a 25-yard shot opportunity. Phillips released the arrow but struck behind the main vitals (heart and lungs). With plenty of cold weather, he decided to give it some time. Still, it took a while to recover the deer.
Eventually, they called in a tracking dog to finish the job. They got on a trail, and the tracking dog quickly recovered a buck — but it wasn’t Phillip’s. Instead, it was a nice 9-pointer he’d seen from the stand before arrowing Lefty. The cause of death was unknown.
They restarted the search from the point of impact. The renewed track job led to the sanctuary field full of native grasses Lefty appeared from during the hunt. After many hours of searching, they found the deer.
“Two days of anguish vanished, and complete relief and joy filled my heart,” says Phillips. “There was Lefty, about 300 yards from where I shot him. The hunt was finally over. I couldn’t have imagined ever shooting a deer like this. I got really lucky being the one to shoot him. A few neighbors had been watching him all summer.”
The huge buck scored 186 3/8 inches (gross). If the right side would have matched, Lefty would have stretched the tape to 228 inches.
The Pinecone Wonder
William “Bud” Hoover of Virginia submitted this one and it’s pretty interesting. On November 21, he had quite the experience. Around midmorning, this deer slipped up on him.
“Dogs were running deer, and this old buck tiptoed out the side and walked right up to me within 5 feet,” says Hoover. “I first thought it was two big scabs, but once I looked close, I saw the pinecone velvet antlers.”
He took the shot, and it dropped right where it was. He gutted the deer, gathered his gear, and headed back to camp.
“Once I got the deer back to where the other guys were, the jokes started flying,” he said. “No one could believe what they were looking at. I think it’s a really cool buck. I did eat the deer, and I’m doing fine. Haven’t grown any horns or extra limbs.”
Ol’ No Nose
Nikki Hemen tagged quite the oddity last November, too. She took the opportunity to hit the woods during the firearms season. On the last day of Missouri rifle, this buck stepped out.
“It was right at daylight, and he was feeding on acorns from a red oak,” says Hemen. “I didn’t notice anything abnormal, but light was still dim, and I didn’t waste any time.”
She clicked off the safety, settled the crosshairs, and pulled the trigger. The buck dropped. The deer expired in seconds.
All in all, the deer appears to have stuck its nose in a bucket of grenades, injured it in some other manner, or perhaps had a genetic deformity.
If only looking at the deer from the ankle up, Travis Rothrock’s Pennsylvania buck would look pretty normal. But from the feet down, it doesn’t. It has really long toenails.
“I killed the deer in [Zone] 4D,” says Rothrock. “He was harvested on December 12, the last day and last hour of the Pennsylvania gun season. I used an 8mm Mauser, and yes, this buck was very different.”
After getting off work around 3 p.m., he headed for deer camp. He arrived, dressed in orange, and grabbed his rifle.
He walked to the Upper Field stand where he hunts, and right before he got there, a buck started running through the timber. He quickly got into position. The buck ran down into a hollow and started up the opposite hillside.
“I saw a flash of antler and fur,” Rothrock said. “I let out my best impression of a buck snort, and it stopped him. I pulled up and shot. There was about a 10-second wait, and he dropped. It was probably one of the fastest hunts I’ve been on, and truly a one-of-a-kind buck I will never forget.”
The deer mount included a great showcasing of the buck’s two grossest feet.
The Limp One
Jeremy Napp didn’t actively hunt this deer, but he sure enjoyed getting trail camera photos of it. According to Napp, the deer is still alive and well.
“He’s on my property in central Pennsylvania,” Napp said. “I’m pretty sure I have a picture of him last year, too. He carried the same drooping rack on one side only the year prior. He lost the rack in early November, but I have many pictures of him throughout the season. I am not sure if it’s genetics or an injury. He seems very healthy other than the rack. I would harvest this buck if he showed up at the right time and presented a clean, ethical shot.”
Maybe he’ll get the chance next season.
We’ve seen many cow horn bucks, but this is one of the wackiest ones. Hunter Blackmon of Chatham County, North Carolina, was the lucky hunter who got him. He and others called the deer Scraggly Joe.
He followed him for a couple seasons.
“In 2019, I had pictures of the crazy buck with a large internal tumor on his shoulder that we could see from trail camera pictures,” says Blackmon. “He had a large fork on one side and a curled spike on the other. But the deer ended up ghosting us the rest of 2019.”
On November 17, 2020, they met up for the final time. They’d never seen Scraggly Joe in daytime — in person or on trail camera — but this was the day. It was a cold, windy day, and he expected good movement. Instead, the deer activity was slow. Underdressed and overhyped, it made for a slow sit.
“As it got dark, I figured the hunt was pretty much over,” says Blackmon. “I was putting stuff back into my pockets when I looked up and there he was — just standing in the path looking at me. I kind of panicked, but I made a quick, clean shot.”
The deer dropped right there in front of him. After appearing like a ghost, he’d finally tagged the big deer. In over 300 pictures from five trail cameras, they’d never received a good daytime picture of him.
Interestingly, this deer also had injuries, and these likely led to the deformed antlers. The old deer had a deformed front hoof.
“To me, he’s a once-in-a-lifetime trophy deer that I would take over any typical buck,” Blackmon said.
Rattle Trap Buck
Up in Manitoba, Canada, Robert Campbell got a different-looking deer, too. He owns a 15-acre piece of ground next to a large piece of Crown (public) Land. Instead of hunting on his property, he went to the public land in search of a deer.
On November 5, with the rut in full swing, he settled in for the afternoon hunt, and tried to rattle in a buck. It didn’t work. No deer.
Around sunset, he walked back to his land, sat down, and conducted another rattling sequence. This time, it shook one loose.
“I saw some movement about 75 yards down the trail in the bush,” says Campbell. “That land has small paths cut through it from over the years. The buck stepped out.”
He shot him with his left-handed bolt-action rifle. The .243 dropped him in his tracks.
“I never thought much of the rack at all other than I knew it was just as cool as a 160-inch 5×5,” says Campbell. “Unique in its own way. Definitely won’t forget him.”
More than likely, this deer injured its antler during velvet. A hard enough strike can cause deformities, even such as this one.