Would you shoot a white deer? If you’ve been hunting long enough, you have probably heard of someone shooting a piebald deer, and maybe even an albino, but would you pull the trigger with such an animal standing in front of you?
Albino deer are rare. Piebald deer are unusual, but not exactly rare. According to the North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission, the traits of an albino deer (pink eyes, pink nose, white hides and hooves, and a lack of pigmentation) occur in one of every 30,000 deer. The traits of a piebald deer, which include white patches of fur on the hide which is otherwise brown, can show up in one of every 1000 deer, although those white spots can sometimes be so small as to be almost unnoticeable in many of them.
The difference between rare and unusual notwithstanding, seeing a white deer (or partially white deer) while hunting does not happen often, and in most hunters’ lifetimes, they will never see a white deer. But would they shoot one if they had the chance?
Scientifically speaking, it seems to make sense to shoot white deer at every opportunity. They are white because they have genetic deficiencies that prevent them from having normal colorations. Presumably, these deficiencies make white deer more susceptible to any number of diseases that normal deer have the ability to fight off, thanks to their genetic makeup. White deer are also more prone to predators, including man, with their inability to readily hide or blend in to their natural surroundings. It seems to make sense to stop those genes from being passed on.
Certainly, a segment of the population will say a white deer is so rare, that no one should consider shooting such an animal. Is a white deer, however, any more rare than a 12-point buck with a 25-inch spread and 16-inch brow tines? And would the rareness – does the rareness – of such a buck make it any less of a trophy for the average hunter, and would the average hunter have any qualms about shooting such a buck? Isn’t that rareness exactly what trophy hunters hope for while afield?
A recent article on South Carolina Sportsman's website featured a hunter who killed a small, 7-point piebald buck. The hunter is a trophy hunter, and passes up many bucks that a lot of hunters would be proud to shoot. But this deer was special to him, a trophy of another kind, and he feels lucky to have had the chance to harvest it. And while many fellow outdoorsmen offered congratulations to him through our Facebook page, a number of folks made comments vulgar enough that we had to delete them, all because they saw his actions as degrading to hunters or because they claimed he lacked morals.
White deer, whether albino or piebald, are not protected in North or South Carolina. No restrictions exist on shooting them that don’t exist for regular deer; they are fair game during deer hunting season. So with no laws against shooting these uncommon deer, what would you do if you spot one while hunting? Would you shoot it, or let it walk?