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A Deer of a Different Color

To see a white deer that is not an albino is truly a rare sighting. The picture of this white deer was captured in New Jersey. Photo by Dr. Leonard Lee Rue, III

By Bob Duncan, former Executive Director, DWR

Lets face it, people are fascinated by the unusual or bizarre. One has only to think about Ripleys Believe It or Not as an example of this fascination with the odd. If you grew up as I did during the era of singing cowboys and the great western movies of that day, you may recall the stories of the mystical white buffalo. There have been white tigers, white squirrels, and white deer, but more on that later.

I still remember cutting a photo of a piebald groundhog out of an outdoor magazine when I was 12 or so. Having spent a fair amount of time hunting groundhogs, I was quite taken back with the very idea of one with abnormal pelage. Little did I know then that I would encounter several oddball chucks later in my hunting career. I was so enthralled with the woodchuck photo that I carried it in my wallet for years to share with hunting buddies. Youve got to admit, thats hard core!

The jump from piebald whistle pigs to piebald deer was a natural progression, and I will never forget seeing a mounted piebald buck on a farm house wall in west Tennessee. It was truly unique and a thing of awe. While I have long hoped to take an adult piebald buck, I found that they usually dont survive long enough to reach as impressive a size as the one I witnessed more than 50 years ago. There was a time when I was averaging one piebald deer per 10 years, but they were all slick heads. The piebald bucks have eluded me just like the smoky gray turkeys that I have chased for years!

A piebald buck deer, this deer has white markings going up from it's legs, belly and rump that blend into the brown of it's back and head

The piebald buck with antlers, like the beautiful full-body mounted animal in this picture, is few and far between. Rarely do they survive long enough to grow impressive antlers. A piebald with an antlered rack like this deer would be considered an extraordinary trophy. Photo courtesy of Rapalee Taxidermy

A late friend of mine, who was a deer biologist in New York State, once told me the story of a herd of all white deer that were not albinos. I was hooked. This most unusual herd is located near Romulus, New York, on a former Army Depot with nearly 3,000 acres of land.

Back in 1949, two all-white deer were observed on the depot and they were given protection. The herd grew from those two to 200. The place is in private ownership, and folks travel to photograph these deer every year and to take tours of the former installation to view the special deer.

A mounted head of a piebald buck deer; it has white markings traveling up it's face, neck and chest.

The antler rack on this mount is more representative of a piebald buck. However, still considered rare and unusual. Photo courtesy of Rapalee Taxidermy

Many years ago, while serving as the Assistant Chief of Wildlife at the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR), I was working a mobile game checking station for a special military deer hunt on Fort Pickett. This hunt was held in a restricted area, and on the day of the hunt it was bitterly cold and windy. As a result, I did not have a chance to examine many deer, but I did have a visit from the General and some of his staff who were hosting the hunt.

The General asked me how the wildlife programs were doing on all of the Army installations in Virginia and I duly reported that things were fine. He pressed the issue—looking for something to improve on—and I finally, if not reluctantly, mentioned one item. I told the General that every time I visited one certain Army base, the base commander, a Colonel, would inquire as to why we could not find some white deer to stock on the base.

I further explained that this request was made every time I visited the installation. I always gave the reasons for why we did not recommend it. I finished my comments to the General by stating that for the life of me, I could not understand why that Colonel kept making the same request year after year. The General, looked directly at me and said, Well son, Ill stop asking him for the white deer!” Permission to remove my boot from my mouth sir! 

I dont guess that Colonels are in the business of telling Generals what they can and cannot have! I was never asked again for white deer! Amen!

Dedicated to the memory of William W. Tex Sadler

©Virginia Deer Hunters Association. For attribution information and reprint rights, contact Denny Quaiff, Executive Director, VDHA.

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  • March 4, 2020