Hunting the Piebald Whitetail Deer : Stalking the Ghost of the Forest
900 AD - A Hunter's Dream
Because of the dense fog blanketing the forests and swamps of this land which would one day be called Georgia, the young Indian brave almost didn’t see the ghostly creature as it suddenly appeared in the clearing.
Although he had spent the majority of his 18 winters hunting the vast forests of this region, the young hunter had never encountered such an animal as was now standing before him.. Nor had he experienced such a mixture of conflicting emotions as went through his head and heart.
Learning to stalk whitetail deer from a very young age he, like most other boys his age in the small tribal village, had often gathered around the main fire at night. Listening intently, they thrilled as the old men,--former great hunters and respected tribal elders-- spun magical tales of hunting the three colors of whitetail deer the Great Spirit had provided to feed and clothe the People. The white deer, the black deer, and this one, a predominantly white deer with sporadic brown markings.
He had once seen and touched the preserved hide of such a mystical creature which was kept in the Cacique’s lodge. But to actually see one alive, and more importantly, within arrow shot, scared him more than he liked to admit. It could be a good or bad omen for him, this deer. At least the elders claimed it to be so.
He also knew it would only be a bad omen if his arrow missed its mark.
Piebald Whitetail Deer In The Wild
Happy Birthday To Me? Encountering a Piebald Deer
You’re probably asking yourself “How does this writer know this ever happened, especially 900 years ago?” Well I do admit I may be off a decade or so, but I have my reasons for believing as I do. So hear me out, both hunters and animal lovers alike. I promise I would do the same for you.
Is it true good things happen in bunches? My latest brush with unexpected good fortune seems to indicate there’s some truth in the theory. I had just returned from a 4 day camping trip at Ft. Clinch State park on Amelia Island Florida and had attended opening day of dove season the day before. Labor Day was coming up and a hurricane was about to send some much needed rain to the southeastern Georgia area.
To top it off--at least I thought it was the highlight of the day--it was my 61st birthday today and my good friend and hunting, and fishing buddy, Russ, was accompanying me on a drive around our farm to check things out before the rain hopefully arrived.
All of a sudden Russ said “Randy, look, look!” I turned my head and saw the most remarkable creature I had ever seen standing in a row of planted pine trees watching us drive by. “Quick, get my camera out of the back seat” I told Russ as I reversed the truck to get a better look at the piebald whitetail deer we had just passed.
We managed to both get a few photos of the beautiful creature before it suddenly dashed through the woods to safety. We were still mesmerized to have witnessed such a rare animal since neither of us had ever been fortunate enough to see one, never mind having such rare chance to photograph one. But how rare is it to see a piebald deer in the wild? Or to actually bag one as a hunting trophy, for that matter?
Black and White Deer
Calico, Pinto, Skewbald, PieBald, Deer
Although often referred to as a “calico” or “pinto” whitetail deer, perhaps the most apt name for this rare animal is the term “skewbald.” But for the purpose of this this article the animal will henceforth be referred to as a piebald because this term is most often used to describe this exotic creature.
While doing research for this article, I quickly discovered there is not a great deal of information on the net about piebald whitetail deer. I did learn there were 2 even rarer colors found among the whitetail deer population in North America. The albino--or pure white--whitetail deer is one such example, with the melanistic-- or dark sable/ black deer-- being the rarest of the 3 such colorations.
The true albino deer is solid white. The melanistic deer is a dark sable or black color and are almost mythical because of their rarity. I have no hopes of ever seeing the latter, but I have personally seen a beautiful albino buck bagged by a local hunter.
Seeing A Piebald Deer : What Are The Odds?
The answer to this question is-it depends on the whitetail population in the area in which you are hunting or residing. The more deer in the area, the more likely the chance of seeing a piebald deer in the wild. While the possibility of seeing a pure white albino whitetail deer is roughly 1 in 30,000, the chance of encountering a piebald seems to range from 1 in 1000, to 1 in 3000. Once again, this depends on the local whitetail deer population.
Some exceptions to this rule include small herds of deer which have more piebald genes than in other areas because they are protected from being hunted by state law. These particular herds continue to breed among themselves, therefore increasing the likelihood of even more of the recessive genes being passed on to their offspring. A buck and doe must both carry the recessive trait in order for a piebald fawn to result from their mating ritual.
Breeding piebald deer in captivity often will produce pure white deer--not true albino deer--if selectively chosen and monitored carefully. There are such programs in existence attempting to produce healthy piebald deer without the normal heath problems many of those in the wild experience. What sort of problems are these, you might ask?
Piebald Recessive Traits in Whitetail Deer
Many piebald deer carry genes which may cause problems for animal during its lifetime. In fact, some never reach maturity because of some of the problems associated with such physical anomalies.
This is in addition to the problem of a piebald's white coat making them easier to spot in a predominantly green and brown environment.
Besides internal organ deformities, piebald deer may have bowed, or “Roman,” noses, a short lower mandible or jaw, curved spines which may appear arched when observed closely, and problems with short front legs or malformed feet.
Because of these unwanted traits most states allow the animals to be harvested just as any other common whitetail deer. Their reasoning is not always agreed with by animal lovers, nor hunters for that matter.
None of these traits are caused by disease or parasites and are simply the effects of the recessive traits passed down through the parents of the unusual piebald offspring.
Simply harvesting the piebald does not however, prevent the parents from producing other fawns which continue to pass on the recessive gene.
The Ethics of Bagging a Piebald Deer
So what would you do if a piebald deer suddenly came into range while you were deer hunting? Knowing the genetic problems and rarity of the piebald whitetail, plus the extremely high probability of someone else bagging the once-in-a-lifetime trophy you passed up, what would your choice be?
Piebald Deer Hunting Poll
What would you do if you saw a piebald deer while hunting?
Finishing the Tale
Although it seemed like a long time before the brave made his decision of whether it was worth it to attempt a shot at the ghost deer, it was only a few seconds in which he remembered the tales of the old veteran hunters of the tribe. Some told of missing their opportunity of bagging such a mysterious and beautiful creature because of bad aim or arrow deflections which allowed the animal to escape unharmed.
Others related their travail of tracking such a wounded animal. Following the creature sometimes for many days and nights until the trail suddenly went cold and the magic was no more. Bad luck seemed to follow these unfortunate hunters the rest of their lives, with some wishing they had never caught sight of the animal. But of course, others had experienced different results.
The rare piebald hide in the Cacique’s lodge was proof of the good luck following the successful bagging of this ghostly whitetail. There were other tales of good luck accompanying a hunter skillful enough to bring back the head and hide of such an admired and respected trophy. Shooting at this rare animal was a bad omen for this young man--but only if he missed the shot.
Updating this article!
Shortly after publishing this article I happened to be at a longtime friends house not far from here. After I told him about my good fortune he suddenly smiled and said "Come in the house and let me show you something.
He led me through to a bedroom where I was shown a deer my friend had bagged in a field right behind his house. He had chosen this buck over a much bigger animal with this one at the time. I was flabbergasted as he had never mentioned this to me before. He had chosen a full body mount as almost anyone would. As the photos below show, this is beautiful creature as I'm sure you will agree.