The Split-Eared Doe
Here’s where my brother was frustratingly situated. “That blasted doe must have a sixth or seventh sense!
Whenever she gets close to where I’m sitting, she starts blowing! And it doesn’t matter what stand I’m in. This afternoon, she started blowing before she got to my north shooting lane, the blind in the northwest corner.
The wind was out of the north. I know she did not smell me. And…I have the windows covered with dark cloth. There’s no way she could see in or even see a silhouette or shadow.”
My brother continued. “Two days ago, a nice eight- point was coming out of the youpons and just about to give me a shot. That’s when she started snorting, scaring the buck enough that he immediately turned and walked back into the brush.”
He continued. “I saw her through a screening of brush. Her right ear is split, almost totally lengthwise. Had it been Thanksgiving weekend, I would have found a hole through the brush to shoot her,” he exclaimed. (Thanksgiving weekend is the only time, where our property is located in southern Texas, that we can shoot a doe without a special permit.)
Then I entered the discussion. “She’s something else,” I commented. “She’s been over on our part, too.” My brother’s property and mine adjoin. We share a mutual fence line. It is land we inherited from our mother and dad. The Weishuhns gained title to it back in 1876. Ever since our great-grandad bought the property, we have grazed cattle and hunted it. Very recently, however, I removed cattle from my property to concentrate on improving the wildlife habitat. In time, I will again graze cattle to help control grass and to encourage forb growth as part of my wildlife management program.
So, here’s what I suggested to my brother, Glenn. “Let me tell you what I learned about that split-eared doe and some of the other deer I’ve had to deal with over the years.”
“I was sitting in my ground blind and could see several deer milling around back in the brush, staging to come into the open. Then 200 yards behind me, a doe started snorting and blowing. The deer I was expecting to soon see melted back into the brush. They did not show up again until after legal shooting hours, when it was too dark to see whether or not there was a buck with them,” I said.
I continued the story. “As soon as the deer disappeared, I turned to watch behind me. I saw a doe. She stopped long enough for me to see that she had a split right ear. I think I know the doe…”
A few years before, when I first started spending time on my property after many years of living far away from it, I saw a fawn while I was cutting some dead cedars.
The fawn looked like it had tangled with a coyote and had miraculously escaped. I remember that the fawn’s right ear was split. (I hoped then that this fawn was a buck, because the split ear would make him easy to identify in the future.)
Later that summer and fall, we started looking for the split-ear deer, but it did not show in any trail camera photos on either Glenn’s or my land, which included additional adjoining acreage I leased for my family to hunt.
TWO SUMMERS LATER
The next time I saw a deer with a split right ear was two summers later. It was a doe, and she had two healthy fawns at her side. Her udders looked like that of miniature milk cow. My kind of doe!
It was fall before I saw her again. This time, she was being chased by a really nice, though young-looking 10-point buck. Trailing behind her were two six-month- old buck fawns. Perfect!
She showed up that year lurking around my ground blind. I was amazed how continually cautious she was. I watched her circle, mostly out of sight, around my ground blind. She always stopped directly downwind behind a screening of brush and watched my blind.
Before heading to my deer stand, I had sprayed all my clothing, including belt, boots, gloves, brown hat and gun with TRHP Outdoors’ “Scent Guardian.” I had learned that this system “prepared” deer, in that they did not detect my presence. Based on this doe remaining directly downwind and not showing any sign of concern, she never smelled me.
Still, she stared, apparently knowing something was not quite right. She would stand there staring, for 10 minutes, moving nothing but her ears. If a deer appeared while she was standing there, she started snorting!
This happened numerous times. In each instance, the snorting doe was the one with the split ear!
It was spring before I again saw “Split-Ear.” Once again, she had twin fawns at her side. As soon as she realized I was watching, she slipped into the underbrush, wobbly fawns trailing at her heels. Two months later when I saw her again, with the twin fawns at her side, both showed developing pedicels. They were bucks.
Seeing her again, I remembered a doe that lived on a friend’s property in South Texas. “Glory” had been bottle- raised and had grown up around humans. She lived free-range on my friend’s place, which was intensively managed for large-antlered Whitetail bucks. During late fall, and especially during the mid-December breeding season through late spring, she roamed the property and was often seen a couple of miles from my friend’s home.
When it came time for this doe to give birth, she showed up at the back steps of my friend’s home. Through a special permit, we tagged her twin buck fawns so we could identify them in the future. And if they were shot, we would have known jawbones for aging purposes. This was important because the deer on the property had access to a free-choice feed trough.
We can’t grow crops because of the lack of rainfall in our area, but we can use crops grown by others to provide additional nutrition. The folks with tillable soil and adequate rainfall have big food plots. Where I live, we have small plots.
Back to the deer. “Glory” lived to be 19 years old. Every early summer, when most South Texas fawns are born from late June to early August, she returned home. Each year we tagged her fawns. Interestingly, most of fawns she produced were bucks.
During those 19 years, 12 of Glory’s tagged-buck offspring were taken by hunting. My friend discouraged the taking of any buck until it was at least six years of age. The 12 bucks harvested all had antlers exceeding 170-Boone and Crockett points, the largest scoring 207.
AN INTERESTING DOE
There were several interesting things about Glory. Not only did she live as long as she did, but each year she produced twin fawns, and nearly all of them were bucks. Amazingly too, she produced large-antlered bucks.
There is no doubt she was bred by a different buck each year. So at least half of her annual buck offspring’s genetics came from a different sire. Undoubtedly, she had strong genetics for antlers! She was obviously a good mother. Being on a daily quality supplemental ration complete with protein, high-energy minerals and vitamins, nutrition for her during her pregnancy and after parturition was never lacking. And yes, she produced a lot of milk. Like her, her offspring were never wanting for food, and her buck fawns were given the opportunity to mature in the presence of excellent nutrition.
Those thoughts were going through my mind as I thought about “our” split-eared doe. She, like “Glory,” seemed to primarily produce buck fawns. And she had a sizeable udder producing lots of milk which got her fawns off to a great start. She too was extremely cautious and wary. I wondered if she passed those characteristics on to her offspring.
I remembered a buck we had in a breeding pen, back when I was involved in all sorts of Whitetail research.
Most of the deer in the research facility were relatively calm. “LS,” one of our breeder bucks, was different!
He never did “settle down.” Interestingly he passed that particular characteristic on to all his offspring. We tagged fawns when they were born so we could connect them to their mother, whose genetic background we knew. With all the other paddocks, we usually had a day to match fawns to mother and tag them. With the fawns sired by LS, if you were not essentially there when the doe gave birth to immediately tag them, you had to run them down or use a net to catch them. They remained extremely wary and “spooky” throughout their lives.
I wondered if the fawns produced by the split-eared doe were of a similar ilk. I strongly suspected they indeed were born super wary and likely stayed that way.
Two years ago, I again saw the split-eared doe during the early spring, twins at her side. Later on in late summer, using my spotting scope, I confirmed that both of her fawns were bucks.
During hunting season, on opening day, I was sitting in the ground blind my grandson Jake and I had built using posts, lumber, and tin. That tin came from my dad’s horse pen, my granddad’s cattle working pens and my great-granddad’s barn. Just before shooting light, I saw movement on the edge of the dry creek that traverses my property. It was the split-eared doe. Right behind her was a really nice (for our area) eight-point buck. Moments later, the duo disappeared into the briars.
I returned that afternoon. No sooner had I settled in when a doe started snorting. “She’s back!” (I stage- whispered mostly to myself.) This time, rather than get aggravated, I snorted back, doing my best to sound just like she did. Immediately, she snorted again. As soon as she started snorting, so did I. She quit snorting, even though I continued doing my best to imitate her.
Moments later, I saw her slipping in, more cautious than any buck I had ever encountered over a lifetime of hunting. She circled downwind and stopped to stare in my direction. She stamped her foot several times, hoping for a reaction out of me. I did not so much as blink. She snorted again. I did the same. When I started snorting, she quit, still staring at me. Just then, her forward erect ears and highly attentive attitude ceased, and she relaxed. Moments later, she started feeding, acting as if nothing had happened and she was in a safe place.
I had been snorting back at deer for years and it always seemed to calm them down. For some unknown reasons I had not previously done so with “split-ear.” Seeing her reaction, I wish I had started doing so a long time ago!
After hearing my take on “split ear,” Glenn, like me had a totally different feeling about this doe. We agreed to not target this split-eared doe, while once we had badly wanted to do so.
A few days before writing this, I was again on my property, this time with a grandson in hopes of finding a wild hog. They abound in our area—until I start looking for them! I had him outfitted with my Taurus Raging Hunter .454 Casull revolver, topped with a Trijicn SRO red-dot sight, and shooting Hornady 240-grain XTP load. But I also had a .270 Win Mossberg Patriot topped with a Trijicon Huron scope and was shooting Hornady’s 150-grain ELD-X Precision Hunter ammo, in case a long- range shot was required.
We were sitting in a ground blind watching a bait station established purely for hog hunting. The chilly late afternoon stillness was interrupted by the thrilling snort of a Whitetail doe. My grandson looked at me with an “Oh No!” expression. Immediately, I began snorting back at her. No doubt it was the split-eared doe. Once I started snorting, she shut up.
That night on our way home I told Andrew the story of “split-ear.”