It’s unusual for a woman to be the person shouting “It’s a girl!” to a group of people. That’s the situation that Adrianna Cockerill of Eastover found herself in last Saturday night, only she wasn’t in the delivery room of some hospital; she was standing at the back of a pickup truck, looking at a 4-pointer in full velvet she had just killed.
From the time she’d shot the deer from a stand on some family land in Richland County, to the time when her boyfriend, Lyon Elliott, had carried the 145-pound deer and deposited it in the back on the truck, nobody had taken a close look at the animal. But when Cockerill grabbed a hind leg and pulled it in just the right direction, she made the shocking discovery: that the 4-point buck, had, well, no male equipment.
“It’s a girl,” Cockerill shouted, and Elliott and several other people gathered around to congratulate her on her first deer also peered between the buck’s legs and realized it was no buck, despite the horns on its head. Closer examination showed a set of perfectly developed female organs, making the animal one of the more unusual in nature: a doe with horns.
“You know, I had been thinking before, that this buck should have had bigger horns as big as his body was,” said Cockerill, 25.
According to biologists, a rare doe will grow antlers because of a surge of testosterone caused by a hormone imbalance, a first pregnancy, tumors or degenerative conditions of the ovaries or adrenal glands. Does with horns need to get another burst or testosterone to cause them to rub the velvet off their antlers, and that is beyond rare, meaning a doe with horns will keep the original set she grows, in velvet, her entire life.
“I talked to a biologist (SCDNR’s Charles Ruth), and he said she could still reproduce and have babies,” said Cockerill, who killed the deer with a single shot from her .243 rifle.
“I had been sitting in this stand since the first day of the season, and I hadn’t seen anything except does and babies with spots,” she said. “I got in my stand at about 6, and I didn’t see the first doe until about 7:25 – it was a doe with a fawn.
“I looked through my binoculars, and there was a path we had cut in the woods with a bush hog, and there were three does standing there with the buck – a doe, and a doe with a baby. I figured the buck was still hanging around with its momma.
“I waited and waited, thinking a bigger buck might come out, and they moved down a tree line and then moved across directly in front of me. I texted my boyfriend and asked if I should shoot the 4-pointer, and he texted back ‘No,’ then he texted back ‘You make the call.’
“They were standing there eating, and at the point where it got dark enough that I had to either shoot or let them walk, I shot him, well, her.”
At 50 yards, the fast little .243 slug pierced the deer, which bolted off to the right, into the woods. As Cockerill tried to reload – “I thought I’d missed,” she said – shaking all the time, the deer came racing back from the woods, directly in front of her stand.
“He just keeled over right in front of the stand, about 20 feet,” she said. “I called my boyfriend; I was shaking so much. He had to pick him up and put him the truck by himself. I couldn’t even help grab the horns because of the velvet.”