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Piebald Deer: To Shoot or Not to Shoot

Gerry Bethge Avatar

As a young reader of Outdoor Life, I recall dozens of stories that somehow impacted my formulative years as a hunter and fisherman. How-to and where-to go hunting and fishing, or course, topped the chart, but there were also many other outdoor oddity sorts of pieces that intrigued me for hours on end. Using chickens–feathers and all–to catch sharks was pretty cool as was another touchstone narrative entitled: "Boys and Bullheads." Since I was a boy who loved to catch bullhead all summer, I guess it seemed a natural extentsion. Another piece that I found particularly fascinating centered around New York's Seneca Army Depot which, at the time, was home to the world's largest herd of white deer. "The story begins in 1941 at an army depot in Seneca County, NY when some soldiers noticed a couple white deer roaming inside their 24-square-mile fenced-off base," explains blogger Dylan Thuras. "Realizing that something strange (and wonderful) was afoot, the General ordered the soldiers to protect the white deer. While the soldiers continued to hunt brown deer inside the confines of the reserve, the white ones were allowed to breed. With predators were kept at bay by a giant fence, and pressure put on the brown deer by hunting, the white deer population was able to explode. (These blanched deer are not albinos, as you might assume, but rather possess two copies of another rare recessive gene for whiteness.) There are now 200 of them roaming the grounds, the largest herd of white deer anywhere in the world." I've been fascinated by white deer, albinos and piebalds ever since although I'd only ever seen one in the wild. Then, last summer, I spotted a piebald fawn feeding in one of my food plots in early July.
As summer turned to fall, he had become the most reliable visitor to my plots. By the time apples began to drop, he'd show up daily and had sprouted telltale buttons on his head.
On October 29, a historic snowstorm dumped more than 30 inches of snow on New England and yet the little buck found a way to dig his way into some apples.
He made it through the storm seemingly none the worse for wear and although my hunting buddies continually threatened to shoot him for messing up our stand setups, the little buck made it through deer season unscathed. The last trail camera photo I had of him was in mid-March. Where he's gotten off to at this point is anyone's guess, though if I had the opportunity to take him during bow season, I'd certainly be tempted. I think he'd make an awesome full-body mount, though others might not agree.
The legal harvest of albino and piebald deer is indeed controversial. Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Tennessee and Wisconsin prohibit killing albino deer and Iowa goes so far as to protect deer that are 50 percent or more white. According to wildlife biologist and executive director of the Quality Deer Management Association, Brian Murphy, the regulations have no basis in good deer management. "There's no biological reason to protect them (piebalds or albinos)," he says. "Protecting them shouldn't be regulated by the state, but be the decision of the landowner and hunters.' Regardless of whether or not you'd take on if the opportunity presented itself, it's tough to argue with how cool these critters look. Have a look at some recent speciments and feel free to let us know your sentiments regarding albino and piebald deer. This awesome doe came from upstate New York.
A so-called "Palomino" piebald from Texas.
A big Oklahoma piebald non-typical.
Ashley Stachowski, of Batavia, New York, initially mistook this piebald for a cow, but one look through her rangefinder and she realized it was a buck. She texted her father, who was hunting nearby, but couldn't wait for an answer. By the time he replied, Stachowski had already drawn her bow and shot the buck. "There's nothing as exciting as seeing your daughter get her first deer," Henry Stachowski told the Daily News. "You go a lot of years before you see something like this one." This is Stachowski's third hunting season and her first deer.
Bryan Vickers with Pickaway County, Ohio piebald that he downed last December.
New York's Ken Jarosinski with a bow-killed piebald.
Joshua Winchell shot this unique-looking piebald in Cass County Minnesota last fall.
Beau Wilke, 11, with a Nebraska firearms season piebald.
A Washington State piebald blacktail.
And now for a couple we'd love to get an opportunity to take.

We take a look at the fascinating piebald deer. Of course, these photos force the question: where legal, would you shoot a white deer?