Youngster ends odd buck mystery in MississippiJACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Landowners and hunters in Lincoln County have spent the last five years talking about an odd-antlered creature roaming the countryside.
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Landowners and hunters in Lincoln County have spent the last five years talking about an odd-antlered creature roaming the countryside.
Many swore there was an elk living near Brookhaven, but its body was too red for an elk, and, at about 450 pounds, it was too big to be a native white-tailed deer.
There were trail cam photos of the darned thing, too, supporting the often-discussed tale.
"It became a pretty big mystery around here," said Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith of Brookhaven. "Well, it's not any more. My 11-year-old daughter Anna-Michael took care of that ... on opening day of the youth gun season."
Anna-Michael and her dad Michael Smith were checking cattle on the family farm when they came to a gate leading to a field full of bulls.
"When I looked out there, I saw the big, red buck standing out in a shallow pond," Michael Smith said. "We'd been told to shoot it if we saw it so I told Anna to grab her gun. The wind was right so we started stalking it.
"We got to within 150 yards and she nailed it."
They took photos and biologists immediately identified it as a red deer, a species that is nonnative to North America but is imported as livestock. Its body is bigger than native deer and its antlers have more characteristics of elk than deer. There are several red deer farms in Mississippi, and escapes have been reported.
Reports of the odd deer have circulated for years, but few actual daytime sightings have been confirmed.
Michael Smith had seen it.
"I knew it was around because I saw it two weeks earlier while I was planting wheat," he said. "My brother was out there and he called me and told me it was chasing cows.
"I guess he was in rut and that's why he was running those cows. He'd pick one out and then chase it. He was still in rut when we shot him because he stunk. There's no mistaking that odor. Now, what he was doing in that field with all those bulls that day ... don't ask me that."
Trail cams in the woods near the field had been capturing images of it for two weeks.
Sen. Hyde-Smith had done her homework.
"I had been in contact with wildlife and agricultural officials and they had identified it as a red deer buck, which is considered livestock in Mississippi," she said. "People farm them and there have been a few of them around this area."
Two escapes of red deer have been reported in the Lincoln County area, wildlife officials said — one within the last year and another in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina blew down a fence around a pen.
"We have no way to be sure which it is, but I'm almost sure it is from Katrina because it had a noticeable limp and injury in a front leg that people have been talking about around here for years," Michael Smith said. "One front leg was kind of bowed in, and when I told people about it at the feed mill everybody knew about that bad leg and said they'd been seeing it for years."
According to wildlife officials, red deer are afforded the same protection as escaped cattle. The owner has a time period to claim and recover it, or release ownership of the animal.
"We made sure we had every 'I' dotted and 'T' crossed," Sen. Hyde-Smith said. "Agricultural officials, who are worried about disease, told us to shoot it or to notify them and they'd send someone down to take care of it. I called them back on Saturday and told them not to worry, my 11-year-old daughter had taken care of it."
The talk of Brookhaven is the red deer buck with the elk-like antlers.
"One funny thing about it was that this is the first year in 20 years that I wasn't elk hunting in the Rocky Mountains the first week of November," Michael Smith said. "We didn't get drawn in the area we wanted so my friends and I decided to take the year off.
"Then Anna kills this thing, and my friends all called and kidded me about even though we stayed in Mississippi, I was still having to skin out a big ol' elk."