Shooting a nice buck will definitely get the blood pumping. Yet if the buck doesn’t drop in sight, mixed with that adrenaline is often a bit of anxiety. Was it a good shot? Will you be able to trail and recover the deer? Was it as big as you thought?
Imagine Mac Cole’s emotions when he shot a nice Taylor County buck on Jan. 2 that was antlerless when recovered.
Mac, a GON subscriber who also manages several GON newsstand delivery routes, was in a stand overlooking a food plot for a late-season hunt on Saturday, Jan. 2. Taylor County is located in west-central Georgia about 50 miles southwest of Macon. Mac hunts a lease in the north part of the county.
He first saw the buck running through 6-foot tall planted pines.
“I didn’t see another deer, but I think he was chasing a doe,” Mac said. “He stopped at the edge of the food plot and raised his head up like he was looking for the doe.”
Mac could see good tine length and a big beam, and he took the shot.
“I texted my wife (Cheri) when I shot because I couldn’t see the deer anymore,” Mac said. “I asked her to walk up from her stand, so I could direct her to where the deer was. I told her in my text that I had shot a buck. When she walked into the edge of the food plot, she could see the deer laying on the ground.”
The deer Cheri saw, however, didn’t have antlers.
“She thought that I was mistaken and had shot a doe,” Mac said. “When she got closer, she saw the antlers laying just above his head. She was holding them when I got down and walked to her.”
Mac said both antlers apparently fell off when the buck hit the ground.
“He did not hit anything while running off—he just fell when I shot,” he said.
“I have been deer hunting for 38 years in Georgia and have never had this happen to me. The processor I use in Taylor County, Parkers Processing, told me that he believed it was due to the extremely warm December, and that it caused the testosterone levels in the buck to drop early.”
Among biologists there are many theories on what determines the timing of a buck to shed its antlers. One common theory is that a buck with broken tines or damaged antlers will shed early. Mac’s Taylor County buck had its left antler busted up, likely from fighting. Other theories are that antlers may be shed early to conserve energy, or because of overexertion during the rut by dominant bucks, or because of poor nutrition.
A takeaway for January deer hunters in Georgia who are selective about the bucks they kill is to look real close at that doe you are shooting for freezer meat—it might just be a buck that’s already shed its antlers.