Question: “A two year old eight point buck on my ranch showed up limping the other evening. Today I got a better look at the buck and it appears he has broken his ankle on his rear hind leg. The whitetail hunting season starts in a few weeks and we are thinking about harvesting him. What should we do with this deer with a broken leg? Will this deer survive and will he participate in the rut and breeding ?”
Response: White-tailed deer are tough and can bounce back and heal from many types of broken bones. For what it’s worth, we have a 4 1/2 year old buck on a ranch that’s been missing part of a hind leg from just below the hock for over two years. The deer is in good body condition and is quite mobile, but the antler located on the opposite side from the bad leg is deformed. It is common that bucks with injuries to their hind legs have deformed antlers on the opposite sides.
In your case, I tend to think the broken rear leg will likely physically remove him from the rut this year. The buck will not be able to chase does, successfully fight with other bucks and will have a hard time mounting does with only one good leg. That being said, the desire to breed is strong and could ultimately do him in a fight or declining body condition. From a deer management perspective, this deer is a non-factor for breeding purposes this year.
If you have a low buck to doe ratio, then I would suggest keeping this guy out on the landscape, although as mentioned earlier there is a good chance he will not do much, if any, breeding this year. On the other hand, if you’ve got a good number of bucks then I would recommend harvesting the deer with the broken leg this coming whitetail hunting season to save your habitat, feed and winter food plots for maintaining the animals that are currently in good health. I’d recommend shooting him.