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Hunting the Piebald Whitetail Deer : Stalking the Ghost of the Forest

Updated on June 8, 2013
My own personal encounter with a beautiful Piebald deer on 9-4-11.  A birthday gift from nature itself for an unforgettable experience and photo opportunity.
My own personal encounter with a beautiful Piebald deer on 9-4-11. A birthday gift from nature itself for an unforgettable experience and photo opportunity.

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

The very first photo, taken as we slowly reversed the truck in hopes the suspected piebald deer would still be standing there.
The very first photo, taken as we slowly reversed the truck in hopes the suspected piebald deer would still be standing there.
The deer seemed to almost pose for this second photo as we thrilled to the sight of our first piebald.
The deer seemed to almost pose for this second photo as we thrilled to the sight of our first piebald.
After the 3rd and 4th photos the piebald finally changes position to show more brown color patterns along the neck.
After the 3rd and 4th photos the piebald finally changes position to show more brown color patterns along the neck.
Settled back down to another pose in this photo.
Settled back down to another pose in this photo.

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?


Melanistic or Black Whitetail Deer

Black and White Deer

Albino deer
Albino 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 whitetail deer 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.

A normal whitetail fawn can hide easier than a piebald offspring with its white fur.
A normal whitetail fawn can hide easier than a piebald offspring with its white fur. | Source
Compare this piebald fawn with the above common whitetail fawn.
Compare this piebald fawn with the above common whitetail fawn. | Source
A primarily brown on white piebald doe
A primarily brown on white piebald doe | Source

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?

Isolated herds with the recessive piebald trait may produce all white deer such as these wonderful animals in New York State.
Isolated herds with the recessive piebald trait may produce all white deer such as these wonderful animals in New York State.

Rare Deer Info and Tales

Tales of Whitetails: Archibald Rutledge's Great Deer Hunting Stories
Tales of Whitetails: Archibald Rutledge's Great Deer Hunting Stories

Classic deer hunting tales, told by a master storyteller.

 
Autumn Moons and Whitetail Dreams: A Portrait of an American Deer Hunter
Autumn Moons and Whitetail Dreams: A Portrait of an American Deer Hunter

Highly regarded deer hunting tales, both funny and enlightening for everyone who loves nature.

 
Biology and Management of White-tailed Deer
Biology and Management of White-tailed Deer

"The" book for anyone seriously involved in managing whitetail deer populations on public or private lands.

 

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?

See results
Slowly moving away into deeper cover.
Slowly moving away into deeper cover.
Giving us the back of its head in preparation for a quick exit into the swamp.
Giving us the back of its head in preparation for a quick exit into the swamp.
Not as easy to see as one might imagine a piebald deer to be.  I managed to get all the shots I wanted at this one.
Not as easy to see as one might imagine a piebald deer to be. I managed to get all the shots I wanted at this one.

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.

Another Local Piebald Deer

This piebald 6-point buck  was bagged by Donnie Vance in southeastern Georgia.
This piebald 6-point buck was bagged by Donnie Vance in southeastern Georgia. | Source
A view of the antlers on the piebald buck.  Notice the only brown coloring on his head.
A view of the antlers on the piebald buck. Notice the only brown coloring on his head. | Source
Another angle of the piebald deer.
Another angle of the piebald deer. | Source

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    • Teddletonmr profile image

      Mike Teddleton 5 years ago from Midwest USA

      Randy, surely the forest gods were smiling on you and your friend and hunting buddy Russ. In the photos, the piebald doe seemed to be communicating with you on some spiritual level. Obviously, the ghost of the forest was not alarmed by your presents.

      It seems as though the rare colored deer was, delighted by your curiosity and admiration. It is no surprise to me. Our Native American hunting brothers revered the ghost like deer oh so long ago. Today I fear, for many deer hunters, naturalist, and biologist having seen the wonder of the woods in photographs, the magic is lost to them.

      Thanks for sharing your good fortune, you and Russ be sure to enjoy retelling the story around many campfires.

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Life is the only "gift" the Universe allows us. Taking any life: deer, snake, spider or fly is an abomination to be avoided at all costs. The only time I would countenance taking a life is in self-defence. Otherwise, let all live and enjoy them going about their business. Bob

    • Randy Godwin profile image
      Author

      Randy Godwin 5 years ago from Southern Georgia

      @Teddletonmr-Yes, I am indeed one of the "old hunters" who enjoys telling tales by the campfire like those in my story.

      Both Russ and I feel so privileged to have seen this animal. Thanks so much for your thoughts and comments. And especially for your time.

      Randy

    • Randy Godwin profile image
      Author

      Randy Godwin 5 years ago from Southern Georgia

      @diogenes-Try telling my Mom her fried chicken is an "abomination" to be avoided at all costs. LOL! I do, however, understand where you are coming from, Bob.

      Thanks for stopping by and for your time.

      Randy

    • dallas93444 profile image

      Dallas W Thompson 5 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

      Side-stepping the merits of universal right or wrong... Great photos and a great article! Flag up!

    • Randy Godwin profile image
      Author

      Randy Godwin 5 years ago from Southern Georgia

      Thanks Dallas, I only wish I'd brought a camera with a telephoto lens as this animal was around 100 yards away.

      But I can't complain too much as I had just put my Nikon back in the truck the previous day. Otherwise, a cell phone pic would've been the only option.

      Thanks again for your comments and time.

      Randy

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

      Oh, what a beautifully written hub. You need a medal for that. I so thoroughly enjoyed it and the photos. Thank you.

    • Randy Godwin profile image
      Author

      Randy Godwin 5 years ago from Southern Georgia

      Hello, hello-Thanks, but the opportunity of actually seeing one of these rare creatures in the wild is reward enough for me.

      Thanks, as always, for your nice comments and for your time. :)

      Randy

    • hazelwood4 profile image

      hazelwood4 5 years ago from Owensboro, Kentucky

      Hi Randy, Wonderful informational article on deer hunting.:) My stepson and his girlfriend have started bow hunting here in Kentucky, but they have not killed one yet. Hopefully, they will will get one soon!:)

    • Randy Godwin profile image
      Author

      Randy Godwin 5 years ago from Southern Georgia

      Thanks Hazelwood4! This piebald is now eligible for archery hunting, so I hope it stays hidden well.

      Thanks for the input.

      Randy

    • gamercameo profile image

      gamercameo 5 years ago

      Great deer hunting experience. I feel it's worth a read.

    • Randy Godwin profile image
      Author

      Randy Godwin 5 years ago from Southern Georgia

      Thanks, gamercameo! I certainly enjoyed seeing the beautiful animal and felt lucky to have had my camera handy.

      Randy

    • WD Curry 111 profile image

      WD Curry 111 5 years ago from Space Coast

      Did you know that Ga. Chickasees(sp?) preferred doe for the table? They left the big bucks that we like to brag about. They had the wisdom to know that they were the key to future bounty. We are so stupid that we chew on buck meat and let the tender does go. They aren't blue crabs! (set females loose).

    • Randy Godwin profile image
      Author

      Randy Godwin 5 years ago from Southern Georgia

      I agree with your comments, WD. There's nothing better than well prepared back strap from a fat doe. Not really a horn hunter myself and besides, we are overrun by deer here in the country. I believe the bag limit is 8 or more now.

      Thanks for the comments and your time.

      Randy

    • Angela Brummer profile image

      Angela Brummer 4 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

      Absolutely beautiful.... we have an over population of deer here but, non that look that! Perfect birthday gift!

    • Randy Godwin profile image
      Author

      Randy Godwin 4 years ago from Southern Georgia

      Thanks for reading, Angela. I'm glad you commented because I had some new photos to add to this hub and I just uploaded them a few moments ago. Check out this piebal a friend bagged literally from his own backyard.

      Thanks for your time!

      Randy SSSSS

    • Randy Godwin profile image
      Author

      Randy Godwin 12 months ago from Southern Georgia

      Thanks Rusty, unfortunately we are prohibited from allowing links in the comments.

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