“There’s a Skunk Eating Joshua’s Deer!”

July 19, 2023 By: Karli Gill

Hunting stories are an important part of every hunting tradition. As hunters, we learn from others’ past experiences. Laughing and sharing our best or most embarrassing moments with fellow hunters is a memorable part of the hunting experience.

Just like every outdoorsman and woman, I have heard some outrageous stories that often sound like tall tales rather than factual accounts. But this story I’m about to tell you is 100% true! In December 2022, at one of our NDA Field to Fork hunter recruitment events in northern Missouri, we experienced one of those hunting stories that will surely be passed down from generation to generation.

For those not familiar, Field to Fork is NDA’s hunter recruitment program focused on adults who would like to learn to hunt deer because of a special interest in acquiring their own venison. Meals of venison are a key feature of all Field to Fork events, and we also emphasize the building of lasting social support through mentors and hunting friends. Storytelling at the end of every hunt, successful or not, is a big part of the social connections that link all hunters.

“Doe Down!”

After a long morning teaching our new hunters the basics of deer hunting, each set of mentors and mentees headed out to begin the hunt. My mentee, Jon Niemira, and I settled into our stand. We were immediately on the lookout for deer that might slip into the field. As the afternoon grew long and the sun crept toward dusk, we’d had no luck but heard shots coming from the locations of the other groups. Group texts started flying in.

“Doe down!” 

“Another doe down!”

One of our other groups was a father-and-son duo. Rodney Harrison didn’t get involved in hunting until after his son, Josh, was grown. They were finally getting a chance to share the experience together as Rodney was taking Josh deer hunting for the first time. That December afternoon, they both successfully harvested deer, thanks to the landowner allowing mentors to take deer as well to help meet the doe harvest goal. Josh’s deer ran into the woods, and they waited a bit before heading in to retrieve it.

Venison is a key attraction to new adult hunters, and so it’s a big part of Field to Fork events. Even if we don’t harvest fresh venison, it is featured in meals through a wide variety of recipes. Here, NDA volunteer Evan Barrett prepares venison reubens for lunch. Photo: Rena Spears.

Hopping out of their blind, they began walking into the woods following the path they’d watched Josh’s deer take. Very soon they saw the doe lying across a log. Rodney offered congratulations, and Josh was smiling as they stepped closer. That’s when they saw movement beneath the deer. A black-and-white ball of fur emerged from underground and crawled on top of Josh’s deer.

It turns out, the doe had fallen directly on top of a skunk den! I’m not sure what the odds of this happening are, but I imagine they’re slim to none. The skunk ignored the terrified onlookers, sat right down on top of the deer, and began gnawing the backstraps as Rodney and Josh watched!

“There’s a Skunk Eating Joshua’s Deer!”

Flustered and not sure what to do next, Rodney quickly began making phone calls while Josh started taking pictures and video. Meanwhile, Jon and I were watching some deer in the field several hundred yards out, way too far for a shot, when I received a most bizarre phone call. Rodney was on the other end of the phone.

“There’s a skunk eating Joshua’s deer for dinner!” 

I had no answer to that. Since I was speechless Rodney spoke up again.

“Can I shoot it?!”

After laughing through my shock, we started to discuss our options. If they shot the skunk and it sprayed, would it spoil the venison? Would Rodney and Josh get sprayed in the process? Was it even legal to shoot a skunk? No one was sure of the regulations covering skunk harvest, since they are considered furbearers in Missouri. But if they left it alone, would it just keep eating the backstraps? Talk about a dilemma!

Rodney came up with another option. He and Josh located some large branches and threw them toward the skunk from a safe distance. Thankfully, this worked, and the skunk moved away from their deer just far enough to allow the hunters to grab the doe and drag it quickly out of the woods.

Rodney Harrison and his son Josh took a selfie after their successful hunt, including Josh’s first deer ever, which they had just rescued from being eaten backstraps-first by a skunk.

The Best Hunting Stories

If you’re thinking this seems impossible and a skunk would never chew on a deer, I would never have believed it either without photo and video proof! As it so happens, skunks are omnivores that often scavenge carrion. Our ornery skunk probably thought someone had ordered DoorDash delivered to its den.

Even as I write this down, I am laughing again. The skunk story has become one of my favorite tales to tell, and I share the photo evidence to go along with it. Not only did Rodney and Josh get to share this first deer hunt, but they now have an even more memorable story to share on deer hunting adventures for many years to come!

You can help us reach more new deer hunters by supporting NDA as a member, becoming a Field to Fork mentor, or organizing a Field to Fork hunt near you. If you’d like to learn to hunt by attending a Field to Fork event, complete this survey. Thank you!

About Karli Gill:

Karli Gill was NDA's Deer Outreach Specialist in northern Missouri until 2023, when she left to work for her family's outfitting service. A Missouri native and lifelong deer hunter, Karli worked for the Missouri Department of Conservation before NDA, where she served as the naturalist for the Runge Conservation Nature Center.