Ask The Biologist

Scared To Death

Scared To Death

By Bob Humphrey

You’ll need a good detective to solve this mystery.

QUESTION: My father once brought home a doe he had taken. It had no wounds anywhere, but there was one small drop of blood coming out of the doe’s ear. We assumed he must have perfectly shot it through one ear and out the other. After mentioning it to other hunters, they said that a deer shot in the head with a .30-06 would have horrible damage (eyeballs blown out, etc.). What gives? – Ken

ANSWER: I once shot a buck in West Virginia. It was trotting uphill and quartering away when I fired and it fell on the spot. I hastily dressed it out, hauled it back to camp and hung it. After skinning and processing it several days later, I looked for but never found any wound. I always figured I must have hit low and it entered the body cavity where I cut to gut it, but I never paid much attention to internal organ damage while field dressing.

We recently received a story from one of our members that offers another plausible explanation. His deer was processed and caped and showed no visible sign of injury. One explanation offered by the Ohio DNR Division of Wildlife was a condition known as “capture myopathy,” an often fatal, exertion- or stress-induced degenerative condition. Death may come immediately or shortly after some traumatic shock, or it may come later from heart failure or severe metabolic imbalance.

It occurs most often in captured animals, which is why translocating large animals like deer is not a very effective means of addressing localized over-population. The hunter in this case was using a large caliber rifle and shot the deer at close range so it’s possible the sound of the muzzle blast literally killed the deer. Or maybe its time had simply come.

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Copyright 2021 by Buckmasters, Ltd.

Copyright 2020 by Buckmasters, Ltd