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Rogue Fallow Deer Found in Ohio

June 7, 2017
By Travis R. Hunt - OVO Pro Staff , Ohio Valley Outdoors

On October 21-22, 2016, I was honored to have the opportunity to hunt for Ohio whitetail deer with the Physically Challenged Bowhunters of America, Inc. (PCBA) in Londonderry, Ohio. Both the hunting and camaraderie were tremendous. However, as I pointed my Tundra truck east for the return journey home, my mind meandered to the inevitable pre-rut festivities that were occurring on my personal property in Jefferson County, Ohio. Upon arriving home, I immediately pulled the SD cards from my two trail cameras. Each camera is located in a food plot overlooking a shelled corn feeding station and adjacent to a Shadow Hunter tower blind. These locations have been very productive over the past half-decade because they are positioned in natural funnel areas and I treat the wildlife to groceries on the ground. The trail cameras stand a silent vigil over my sacred hunting grounds and as a result, my family and I are accustomed to capturing digital images of deer, turkey, quail, coyote, the neighbor's cat, the neighbor's dog and even an occasional trespasser. Appreciating this, an image from the trail camera has never shocked me.. at least until that fateful Saturday afternoon.

I plugged the SD card into the laptop in my basement office and within a moment I bellowed up the stairs "get down here and see this." What I was summoning the wife and daughters to see was a majestic solid chestnut fallow buck. The buck was, at the minimum of three years old, as he proudly displayed fully palmated antlers. These antlers were pointed and had not been subjected to excessive rubbing or sparring with other bucks. This fallow was a fine specimen and would easily boast a $3,500 price tag from any reputable exotic hunting ranch. We sat in amazement and took in the trail camera picture that was dated October 21, 2016, at 6:43 PM. A quick cranial calculation confirmed that this fallow was standing in front of my tower while I was three hours away hunting with the PCBA. To me that begged two questions. First, how did he get here and second, was he coming back?

The first question was the mystery. After all, fallow deer are native to Europe and some parts of Asia. Through the centuries, fallow deer populations have been established in South America, India, and parts of Africa. In the United States, fallow deer are common fare on exotic hunting ranches and free range in Texas, Northern Illinois, and parts of Rhode Island. Knowing that there are no free ranging fallow deer anywhere close to me, the question remained, how did this bruiser end up in my back yard? That question has remained unanswered to this date.

Article Photos

This image is not something anyone would expect to see on a trail camera in Ohio. Yes, a fallow male deer was spotted on the author’s camera last October. Where the deer came from remains a mystery. Photo courtesy of Travis R. Hunt

The second question I attempted to answer for myself. I showered, donned my Predator Fall Gray camouflage, grabbed my crossbow, and headed to the tower. I laid a curiosity scent trail on the way to the tower and spread various tasty supplements within shooting distance. I sat that evening and there was sadly no appearance of the fallow buck. Not to be too disappointed, I returned to the tower well before sunlight and then again that evening. Still my fallow did not manifest nor did either trail camera reveal an appearance. That was Sunday and I was disappointed. I asked God why he would show me such a wonderful creature only to not have him appear again.

To answer the second question, I placed a call to Officer Craig Porter, who is the Jefferson County Wildlife Officer. I remember asking Craig "so what do you know about rogue fallow deer running wild in Jefferson County?" He told me that he did not know anything but that I should contact Officer Nick Turner, who is the Harrison County Ohio Wildlife Officer. This made sense to me because my property was located a few miles from the Harrison County line. I left a message and Officer Turner returned my call. I asked him the same question and he answered. He informed me that earlier on Sunday he received a telephone call reporting that a massive fallow deer was struck by a motor vehicle on state Route 22. My ranch is a mile from Route 22 and Harrison County is just a few minutes down the road. I forwarded Officer Turner the pictures of the fallow buck from my trail camera and he confirmed that the beast in question were one in the same. My question was answered and the fallow buck would not be returning.

The discussion proceeded to the attempt to dissect the source of the fallow buck. Officer Turner shared with me that the source was unknown as there are no active fallow breeders or exotic hunting operations in a reasonable proximity. He told me that he made contact with one person that he was aware who has a few fallow deer contained in a high fence but none were reported missing. He reiterated to me that a fallow deer is not a native Ohio deer and is, therefore, not subjected to Ohio hunting regulations. This meant that the fallow could be hunted with the weapon of my choice at the moment of my choosing. This is the approach that the State of Ohio takes with other non-native game such as coyote and feral swine.

Fact Box

This fallow was a fine specimen and would easily boast a $3,500 price tag from any reputable exotic hunting ranch.

These few days truly exemplified the ecstasy of opportunity and the agony of defeat. Though I was blessed to have such a unique animal roaming my ranch, I was sadly disappointed that I was not able to complete the task and have a fallow steak and a beautiful mount with a mysterious past. If you have any information as to the source of rogue fallow deer running around Jefferson County Ohio, please reach out to me and let me know the rest of the story.



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