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Unnatural interest: Trophy buck in Cook County

A world-famous buck walks a forest preserve in Cook County.

You gotta love social media and fame, even the non-human kind.

A plethora of drop tines (tines hanging down rather than growing up) and an overall mess of antlers make it notable. In the hunting world, that kind of unbalanced rack is known as a non-typical. In this case, that designation truly fits.

Big odd bucks touch far more than hunters.

Because this buck makes a forest preserve home, it has been seen. In the wild, a buck like that would be rarely seen, often because they become nocturnal, other than during the rut.

Non-typical.

A hunting friend, who saw the buck, describes the mass of antlers as being bleached. So I named him “Blondie.”

About that hunting friend.

He deciphered enough clues from social media posts to figure out which preserve it was. And got lucky his first time looking for it a couple weeks ago and spotted it.

A couple days later, I tried to see if with him, without luck. Though we saw plenty of deer, including a pair of young bucks sparring.

A small cadre of people are watching the buck, monitoring it.

Some are just animal lovers. Some are lovers of shed antlers. Some may be lovers of money. A knowledgeable shed hunter put the value of the sheds at around $20,000.

Mid-February is the general point where half the bucks–whitetail deer drop their antlers in winter and regrow them a few months later–have shed their antlers. As far as I know, “Blondie” still has his antlers.

Deer in forest preserve settings become acclimated to humans, I walked very close to this one without it spooking.

Credit: Dale Bowman

Thursday, when I was out there again, I noticed about six vehicles that were the same as the ones I saw the first time I was there. Blondie is being monitored.

Some are just people who savor the sight of a once-in-a-lifetime buck. Others may be watching for the day when “Blondie” drops his antlers, either to make sure no one takes them or to collect them themselves. Shed collecting in the Forest Preserves of Cook County is illegal, like it is in most non-state parks and forest preserves.

One of the problems with concentrated deer is the amount of scat that piles up.

Credit: Dale Bowman

Thursday when I pulled in, about six vehicles were clustered around a long line of shelled bright yellow field corn kernels. About 15 does, or at least antlerless deer, were strung along the line of kernels, like cattle in a field lot.

The feed lot feeling continued when I hiked back to a marsh–surprising a pair of mallards who either arrived early or were stay-at-homes and were hanging out around the thawing marsh edges–and saw deer hooves had churned well-defined paths in the soaked loam.

Feeding wild animals in the forest preserves is just as illegal as shed collecting and probably more destructive.

These deer have become nearly tamed, quite acclimated to human interaction. As a hunter, I am reminded that for many non-hunters, especially in urban areas, this is what they assume deer are like, unafraid as Farmer Brown’s cow.

Non-typical and unnatural.

As for me, I will try another time or two to spot it.

It’s worth it for me, just for a sight of it.