20 Photos That Show Just How Tough Whitetails Are

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Check out these brutal deer injuries, documented on trail cameras

It’s no secret that whitetails are incredibly tough animals. Their will to survive is beyond anything in the big-game category, and their ability to overcome serious harm is impressive. Although we don’t celebrate or take joy from seeing deer in pain, check out these trail camera photos that show just how tough whitetails are. This is a tribute to the resiliency of these animals, not a gruesome gallery for digital vanity.

This buck survived two more years after losing a leg. Image by Josh Honeycutt

The Tripod Buck

I had this buck on trail cameras for five seasons. I saw him several times, too, but never had a shot. Unfortunately, sometime during Winter 2013-’14, he lost his left hind leg. I wasn’t sure if he’d make it, but he did. The buck lived two more seasons before being shot by a neighboring hunter.

This deer took a hard hit of some kind to the head, leading to its right antler and part of the skull plate being ripped off. Image by Josh Honeycutt

Early Shed Buck? Nope.

Looking at this trail camera photo, you’d think this deer is an early shedder. That isn’t the case, though. I discovered this deer dead while shed hunting the next spring. It had cleanly broken off its left antler and skull plate, completely exposing the brain cavity. It lived like that for at least two weeks — perhaps longer.

Another buck that's lost a limb. It goes to show deer can survive with only three. Image courtesy of Caleb Myer

Lost Limbs? No Problem.

Submitted by Caleb Myer, this photo shows another injured deer that lived through a rough event. 

“This buck was hit in the back leg [two seasons ago],” Meyer said. “Not knowing if he’d make it, I was pleasantly surprised when I got this pic last fall. He had completely lost the lower half of his leg but still looked healthy.”

Realtree's Will Brantley captured photos of this buck. It healed up quite nicely. Image courtesy of Will Brantley

Shoulder Pain

This buck showed up on Will Brantley’s trail camera late in the 2019 gun season. Obviously, it had a bad shoulder wound, but it healed within a month. His wife shot the deer the next season. “The deer stuck around all summer, and Michelle killed him the following September,” Brantley said. “Had a scar with missing fur but no limp, and no indication otherwise that the deer had been wounded like that.”

A misplaced arrow to the neck can't feel good. Hopefully the buck shed it quickly. Image courtesy of Brady Snyder

Neck Pain

This series of screenshots from a trail camera video show a buck with an errant arrow stuck in its neck. This deer showed up on Brady Snyder’s hunting property like this, and he doesn’t know what transpired. We hope a hunter didn’t purposely take a bad shot. Of course, it’s possible the deer jumped the string or reacted to the shot, causing this bad arrow placement. Hopefully the arrow came out and the deer recovered.

Another buck with an arrow to the neck. This deer eventually rid itself of it. Image courtesy of Garrett Spoede

Neck Pain 2.0

Garrett Spoede got a photo of this buck on one of his cameras, and it also seems to have an arrow lodged in its neck. 

“Had this buck on cam a few years ago,” Spoede said. “This property borders public ground. Looks like someone shanked him in the wrong spot. Had pictures of him three weeks later with the arrow gone.”

This deer really took a hard lick to the rumpus. Exactly what did the damage is unknown, though. Image by Josh Honeycutt

Rump Roast

Although it’s unclear what happened to this deer, which appeared on my trail cameras in 2016, it obviously wasn’t good. Whatever the cause, this deer survived a close call and likely some searing pain.

A baseball-sized hole wasn't enough to kill this deer. Image courtesy of Kane Gillette

Smoked Brisket

This trail camera photo from Kane Gillette is impressive. The buck is a beast. 

“It has a baseball-sized entry hole in the brisket,” Gillette said. “It lived for 34 days before being successfully harvested.” 

Yes, you can see brassicas on the other side of that hole.

Here's what seems to be a bad hit. Surely it ended up being lethal, right? Image courtesy of Jordan Yira

Intestinal Issues

This trail camera photo by Jordan Yira shows a deer that was shot in the intestinal region. Whether the deer lived or died from the impact is unknown. Obviously, a hunter pulled the shot, or the deer reacted to it and moved.

This buck's tongue always hangs out. Wonder why? Image courtesy of Ryan Smith

Limp Tongue

This capture by Ryan Smith is unique. 

“I’m not sure what this guy’s issue is,” Smith said. “His lower jaw looks to be much shorter than his top, and his tongue is always hanging out, but he deals with it. I presume it’s an old jaw injury of some kind.”

This deer was an inch or less from death. Image courtesy of Darren Borgman

Cheating Death

Darren Borgman submitted this trail camera photo, which shows a deer that narrowly escaped death. 

“This one sure impressed me,” he said. “This deer had apparently been shot with an arrow, and it passed completely behind the deer’s shoulder. I had pictures of her for a couple of years, and she was fine. Tough as nails.”

This deer seems to have survived this gruesome injury. Image courtesy of Eli Jolly

Crossbow Blow

In another example of a misplaced or bad shot, this buck showed up on Eli Jolly’s camera this season. 

“The deer got shot with a crossbow on Thanksgiving,” he said. “I helped the guy look for it for hours that next morning with no success. Showed up on cam a couple of days later. It’s been on camera every day since.”

The cause of the injury is unknown, but it certainly appears painful. Image by Josh Honeycutt

Gut Check

I had this doe on trail camera several years ago. She had a massive tear around her lower abdomen area. I don’t know what caused it, but I know she lived.

This deer almost certainly didn't live long, but that fact it's still walking here is incredible. Image courtesy of Jacob Blake Antley

Skewered

Submitted by Jacob Blake Antley, this deer clearly got skewered by a limb. How it happened isn’t obvious, but somehow, this buck received a serious blow. It doesn’t appear to be survivable, but the fact the buck is up and moving is impressive.

This old buck has lost an eye and maybe an ear drum. Image courtesy of Jared Kelly

Blind and Deaf

The deer in this trail camera photo captured by Jared Kelly has been through the ringer.

“He’s completely missing an eye,” Kelly said. “I know because I killed him. And he has a broken ear. I guess all from fighting.”

This deer was really pumping the 'roids, but they all landed in the same spot. Not much even distribution. Image by Josh Honeycutt

Serious Cysts

A buck that remained on my cameras for much of 2018, this deer appears to have a major cyst on its hind leg. Whether the deer survived beyond that season remains a mystery, but it’s possible. The deer acted mostly healthy and normal when on trail cameras.

This wild buck is more than 12 years old. What a tough guy. Image courtesy of Kevin Thayer

Lucky Buck

This is a buck Kevin Thayer had on trail camera for some time. Here, the buck is 12 years old and had survived many seasons. It even has a bullet hole through the ear. That seems like a lucky buck, for sure.

What should have been a lethal hit, this one wasn't. Image courtesy of Logan Sims

Close Call

Logan Sims believes this deer, which he had on trail camera, took an arrow, bullet or perhaps an antler to the neck. That placement seems to be close to the spine but obviously missed it. That was a close call for the buck.

This deer was so close to paralysis, but barring infection, it will live to tell the tale. Image courtesy of Phil Lincoln

Tough Break

Phil Lincoln shot this deer with a bow and arrow. Unfortunately, the deer reacted and dropped to bolt upon hearing the shot. This photo was captured four days after Lincoln shot him. 

“Hunting from the ground, he jumped the string at 19 paces, and the broadhead buried in a vertebra,” Lincoln said.

This buck got in a fight with something. Whatever it was ripped the deer's skull plate wide open. Image by Josh Honeycutt

Brain Matter

This is another buck I had on trail camera. It broke its antler and skull plate. As shown in the photo, the deer has exposed brain matter where the left antler and skull plate is laid over. I can’t confirm it for sure, but the odds this deer lived long are slim.

Do you have crazy trail camera photos showing how resilient and tough whitetails are? Drop them in the comments section below.

(Don't Miss: Ancient Buck Had Rare Third Antler)

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