Numerous hunters encounter calico or piebald deer if they hunt often enough, but seeing a true albino deer is a rare sight that most hunters never see. Will Hadley of Eli Whitney, N.C. spent a couple of years watching two solid white, pink-eyed does. On Oct. 15, he killed one of them, but not before struggling with whether or not to shoot it.
“I watched them for years, on trail cameras and from my hunting stand. I’ve got hundreds of photos of them, and saw them both many dozens of times over the years. I vowed not to shoot them, but I changed my mind this season after not seeing the older one any longer,” he said.
The two deer were mother and daughter.
“I’d watched the older one for a couple of years. The first time I saw the younger one, I was sitting in my stand and the white doe came into the clearing with a tiny fawn that was just as white. The fawn began nursing from the mom, and ever since then, I saw them both regularly, so I know the exact age of the 4 1/2-year-old when I shot it.
“Once the older one disappeared from trail cameras and I began seeing only the younger one, I began to question my decision not to shoot them. I wanted to be able to preserve the beauty of that white deer rather than have it just disappear like the other one. I figured I better shoot it before it gets hit by a car, a coyote, another hunter, or whatever happened to the older albino,” he said.
While most hunters would consider killing a white deer to be a blessing, Hadley considers himself doubly blessed. It was not only his first albino deer, it was the first time he’s killed a deer with his bow, and the first time he’d ever shot at a deer with a bow.
“I’d practiced with my bow a lot, and had a good friend named Sean Malloy show me all the details of shooting a bow, and helped me get good enough at it that I felt confident to take it into the woods. I’d been a crossbow hunter for many years and killed my share of deer with a crossbow, but a few years ago I decided I wanted to hunt with a bow, and Sean helped me a lot to get to this point,” he said.
Even though he bowhunted hard for more than an entire season, Hadley never felt he was close enough to take a clean shot.
“I had gotten as close as 40 yards away, and while that’s not too far for modern archery equipment, I just did not feel confident enough in my bowhunting skills to draw back at that distance,” he said.
And even though Hadley had decided to shoot the albino doe, he still struggled with that decision.
“I saw the white deer on an earlier hunt, and it was well within shooting range. I said a little prayer about it, and just decided that wasn’t the day to shoot it. But, I couldn’t resist taking a selfie with my iPhone with the deer in the background,” he said.
In a half-hearted attempt to not see the deer the next time he hunted, he moved his Summit Viper climbing stand to another spot.
“I was trying not to have to make that decision again of whether to shoot it or not, but as fate would have it, the deer showed up again, offered me a perfect shot as it quartered toward me, and I shot it at 25 yards. I knew I’d made a good shot even though the deer ran off. I found it about 120 yards away,” he said.
Hadley shot the deer with a Bear Attitude bow and a Carbon Express arrow with a Rage Hypodermic broadhead. He’s having a shoulder mount made at Steve Rogers Taxidermy in Chapel Hill.
“There’s so many things that are important to me about this hunt. The beauty of God’s creation in such a rare deer, the friendships I’ve made with people helping me learn to shoot a bow, and having this be my first bow kill. I hope it shows other beginning bowhunters that it’s worth it no matter how long it takes. I hope I can inspire someone else to not give up too soon,” Hadley said.