Whitetail Mystery Solved: The Case of the Buck with a Broken Skull Plate

Melissa Bachman finally gets to the bottom of a very unusual buck captured on camera for several years.

by posted on January 2, 2024
Bachman Broken Skull 3

For years we’ve had a goofy racked buck on camera in Illinois. We’ve watched him grow up and always noticed something was not right on one side. The first few years it looked like an antler hook coming out of his eye, then this year it grew into a full beam with points but still sat lopsided on his head. We had never seen this buck in person but after years of SpyPoint pictures we knew he was old, and he was a really cool looking deer.

Fast forward to this fall on the last day of our hunt. We had one morning left and deployed the decoy into a little food plot in front of our stand. As the sun came up, a little buck stepped out on the side, started coming to the decoy then left. I looked over and this big goofy buck was eyeballing our decoy and started side stepping straight in. He stopped right between two windows so I didn’t have a shot, but his ears were pinned back and I knew we had him tricked. After a while he started walking behind the decoy and I made my shot and everything hit perfect.

He ran off the field and went straight down to one of the steepest draws on our property. When we went down to recover him, we realized that his entire antler was loose from his skull plate. It literally felt like only skin was holding it together. This was a pretty neat find as we had always wondered what was going on but now it proposed a bigger problem. How were we going to get this buck out of the bottom without being able to drag him from his antlers? Well, we did it one inch at a time. I had a leg, and Martin, my cameraman, had the other antler.

Once we finally got him out of the bottom we were still amazed by this antler and could hardly believe he came into fight the decoy. I can’t imagine how much it would hurt this buck to lock antlers with another deer. I’m still not sure if he got him initial injury from a fight, or maybe being hit by a car but I do know that is amazing to see how tough and resilient these animals are. After caping him, we saw that the skull plate was completely separated from the skull and had broken apart. I don’t know if it had grown back together slightly and possibly broke when he crashed after being shot but I am most amazed he still had that fight in him.

This is a perfect example of how fun it can be to have your own place, watch the deer grow, plant the food plots, and try to only harvest the most mature bucks. This was a beautiful buck and something I’ll forever be proud of. The best part is after owning this ground for three years, this was the first deer we had ever harvested. Such a cool old gnarly buck and once again proof that a decoy during the right time will bring in the bucks, even ones that have no business fighting! Check out the video here.


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