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Iowa's 3-Legged Doe

Iowa's 3-Legged Doe
Iowa hunter Adam Boysen has been capturing photos of this 3-legged doe for years, including this trail-cam shot from 2017.

We’ve all seen whitetails with physical oddities. As hunters, we might tend to think of non-typical antlers or maybe piebald (splotched) coats as the most obvious examples. But sometimes it’s what a deer doesn’t have that makes it stand out from the crowd.

2015 trail cam photo of 3-legged doe
This photo from 2015 is one of the first Boysen caught on trail camera.

That’s the case with a unique doe avid whitetail hunter Adam Boysen has been photographing for years in his area of Southeast Iowa. She’s missing nearly all of her left foreleg below the knee joint. Yet trail camera images show she’s lived a long, productive life. In fact, she was already an adult when Adam got his first image of her way back in 2015, and she apparently has given birth every year since.

2016 trail cam photo of 3-legged doe
Even with just three legs, this doe is healthy and active, as seen in this 2016 photo.

Because what remains of the doe’s leg appears to be normal, it’s assumed she lost the lower part to injury in her youth. Adam says it might have been the result of an errant shot by one of his younger nephews, but he isn’t sure. In farm country hay mowers sometimes are the culprit, as extremely young fawns often will try to lie low in cover rather than flee approaching equipment.

2016 trail cam photo of 3-legged doe with buck
"3-Legged Doe" was caught on trail camera with a velvet buck in 2016.

Regardless, this doe doesn’t seem to have let it hold her back much. She not only has contributed to the herd but even now appears slick and healthy in photos. Not even the livestock fences stretched across the countryside have been insurmountable barriers.

3-legged deer nursing
This 3-legged doe has given birth every year since 2015.

In case you’re wondering, no, this durable whitetail doesn’t have a nickname. The standard for such deer often is “Tripod,” which of course would fit. But Adam and his hunting crew have avoided that moniker or anything else, other than the obvious. “We’re not big on naming deer,” he says, “so ‘3-Legged Doe’ is all we call her.”

And at this point, she’s also on the list: the “do not shoot” list, that is. “She’ll get a free pass as long as she’s alive,” Adam claims.

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