As a deer hunter, a whitetail deer hunter is a welcome sight, but not necessarily a rarity. But, catching a glimpse of the incredibly rare piebald deer is a scarce and beautiful sight. Every now and again, hunting enthusiasts get to witness rare images of a piebald deer on social media, discovered by a “lucky” select few hunters. This unique deer features impossible-to-miss white markings, standing out like a unicorn in a forest full of horses. In fact, many hunters focus exclusively on these hard-to-find critters – determined to add a new trophy to their collection.
But – just how rare are piebald deer?
What is a Piebald Deer?
Contrary to what many hunters believe, piebaldism is not a combination of a regular whitetail deer and its albino counterpart. Piebaldism is a genetic abnormality responsible for the piebald deer’s appearance. It’s a rare condition that affects less than 2% of the whitetail deer population.
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According to geneticists and researchers, the name “piebald” originates from the word “pie” – short for magpie, a bird in the crow family. The magpie has black and white plumage. The piebald deer has a genetic abnormality, causing patches of white across its body. This patchy look gives it a mixed up appearance, in which the patches, or lack of pigmentation almost make it “bald.” Pie + Bald = Piebald!
Piebald deer come in a range of colorations and variations. There is no stock-standard. Some piebald deer look as though they’ve been splashed with white paint. Others may look almost “airbrushed” or spotted. It is believed that this recessive trait must be carried by both deer-parents, maternal and paternal, in order for the offspring to be piebald. That’s what makes the condition of piebaldism so exceptionally rare.
Piebaldism presents itself in many different forms, varying from moderate to severe depending on the circumstances. While some piebald deer can live normal, long, happy and healthy lives, most aren’t so lucky.
Interestingly, piebaldism isn’t just isolated to deer. Throughout nature, we see many other species experiencing this genetic abnormality, including horses, certain dog breeds, python snakes, moose, bald eagles, and on some cases, even humans.
Piebaldism | More Than Just A Coloring Abnormality
Apart from the strikingly unique coat, a piebald deer usually has other distinguishing features, include shorter-than-normal legs, an arched spine (scoliosis), and a prominent oral overbite. Beyond the surface, a piebald deer normally experiences certain organ deformities, and even arthritis.
According to geneticists, this boils down to something called “pleiotropy,” which causes one single gene to control numerous traits. The affected traits range from pigmentation to bone development and more. It’s not unusual to see a piebald deer with debilitating genetic mutations and severe birth defects. Combined, these factors make it exceptionally challenging for piebald deer to survive in the wild – let alone make it to adulthood.
In one recent case study, Missy Runyan, a New York-based wildlife rehabilitator, was called to the scene of a distressed fawn in May of 2017. The white-as-snow piebald fawn was plagued by severe birth defects, including life-threatening internal genetic mutations. The fawn didn’t live for much longer, but Runyan managed to X-Ray the fawn’s body and detect numerous internal abnormalities. The results showed internal defects that made it impossible for the fawn to survive in the wild.
Piebaldism Vs. Albinism
The genetic causes for piebaldism and albinism differ, something you can easily spot by gazing into the affected deer’s eyes. While an albino deer’s eyes are pink, accompanies by a pink nose and hooves with pink hues, piebald deer have brown eyes, a brown nose, and black hooves.
Piebald deer should also not be confused with melanistic deer, which typically lack brown or white color variations and usually appear to be black across their entire bodies.
While geneticists and scientists are still hard at work to fully understand the genetic mutation that causes piebaldism, one thing is for sure: If you see one, you should count yourself lucky. Few hunters will ever get the chance to get a glance of this rare creature out in the wild.
Piebald Deer | To Shoot…Or Not To Shoot?
More and more hunters are emerging on social media, slammed for their short-lived success at when taking rare trophy piebald deer. In various parts of North America, these rare white animals are seen as “sacred,” and not to be harmed. Certain indigenous communities see piebald deer as “returning ancestors,” serving as a “reminder that something of significance is about to happen.”
There are also various “myths” and “legends,” stating that by capturing and killing a piebald deer, you will “experience bad future hunts,” or, “guarantee your own death in a year’s time.”
Laws Regarding Piebald Deer | Check Your State Hunting Regulations
If you aren’t superstitious, do your homework by researching the rules and regulations of your state. For example, it is illegal to shoot any white deer in Wisconsin, as herds of white deer are rising in numbers, making locals rather protective of the rare animals.
While certain jurisdictions have laws in place to protect piebald deer, among other white animals, many locations allow (licensed) hunters to lawfully harvest these rare creatures without consequence.
According to Brian Murphy, wildlife biologist and the Executive Director of the Quality Deer Management Association, there is no biological reason to protect piebald deer or albinos. Protecting them should not be regulated by the state, but rather, should be the decision of the landowners and hunters.
While piebaldism is indeed rare, population problems are apparently not a concern. Emerging research shows that the act of hunting a piebald deer will have no significant impact on the deer population, let alone damage it. If you would wish to take such a rare trophy (and meat) back to your home, and if it is legal to hunt them where you live, there’s no reason not to hunt piebald deer.
Have you ever seen a piebald deer out in the wild? Leave a comment on this post or share your photos with us here at N1!
This hunting season has been nothing but hard work, patience, dedication… rain!
On the morning of New Jersey bow season opener, it was pouring rain, and of course I went out in it… but saw nothing moving in the area. Later, I went back out for an evening hunt and I had three bucks come out to me at the same time, following one another. However, I was unable to harvest one of those bucks, because for early bow season, it’s “earn a buck,” which means you must harvest a doe first. Nonetheless, opening day was exciting with all the buck action I was seeing, and it gave me even more confidence for the rest of the season.
Wanted: Solo Doe
I sat just about every evening after work, waiting for that solo doe to walk in, and I just was having no luck. I was seeing deer, but they were either too far away, with fawns, or were bucks.
Finally, on September 19th, I kicked off my 2018 hunting season when I harvested a mature solo doe with my bow. I couldn’t have been more thankful!
I continued to check the trail cameras and scout new areas, looking to punch my buck tag. There were numerous young bucks coming to the bait or checking out the area I was hunting, but not any buck I wanted to fill my tag with. All the bucks I was seeing still needed a few years to reach maturity.
Wanted: Punched Buck Tag
October was about the same as September, as I saw young bucks and does coming in. I was able to harvest another doe that came in with a broken leg and could barely walk.
As I continued checking trail cams, a couple of our shooters were hitting our bait piles or scrapes, but just at night. They became nocturnal and only does were coming during shooting light. November was coming, and that meant rut season for bucks. And, muzzle loader season was right around the corner.
I took the time on the weekends to shoot my muzzle loader to make sure it was dialed in for the first days of the season. I sat both days at the end of November and I was able to lock in on a mature doe, 80 yards out in the field. She only ran about 30 yards until we found her.
The following week for us was 6-day firearm, and I knew that any deer we’ve had on camera will soon be moving all over, so we would likely have a chance to see new bucks come in the area. However, 6-day firearm came and went and I still had my muzzle loader buck tag waiting to be punched. I continued to sit the days that were open for muzzle loader season, hoping to punch my buck tag before the year was up.
Muzzle Loader Season Magic
That day finally came, December 26, 2018 at 3:38 pm! That is when the wait finally ended and I was able to fill my last tag for muzzle loader, and fill it with an incredible buck. I had to work the morning of the 26th at 5 am until 1:30 pm. I got home, changed, and my dad and I went out to both sit in an evening stand with the muzzle loader.
I got in the stand around 2 pm. The wind was blowing in my favor, the weather was perfect, and it was quiet. Around 2:20 pm, I kept hearing something to my left but saw it was just some squirrels chasing each other. I turned to look to my right… and that’s when I caught a glimpse of his antlers.
Love At First Crab Claw
The only thing I could see at first was the crab claw on the left side. When he walked a little farther out of the laurels he turned to look next to him and that’s when I knew he was a shooter. My heart started to race, my breathing got heavy, and my hands started to shake. I reached to grab my gun, although very slowly, since he kept looking around curious about something. His tail was going up and down and he acted calm as he walked the area.
I finally got the gun half way onto the shooting rail when he turned to look in my direction. I thought he could hear my breathing, because in my head, I thought I was so loud. So, I hid my mouth in my scarf and took a deep breath.
Please Mr. Buck, Turn Broadside
moved the gun up to look at him through the scope. I still couldn’t believe this buck just walked out in front of me. And, it was a buck we had never seen before. He went 10 yards behind the pile and made a half circle and then looked straight toward me. I had the cross hairs directly on his chest and was debating about shooting him right there. I thought to myself “he’s going to take two steps left or right to be broad side and that’s when I’ll shoot.”
Sure thing, he took two steps to his left looking to my right, stood completely broadside, and I knew that was my shot.
Breathe… Trigger… Smoke… Buck Down!
I took one last deep breath and squeezed the trigger. Through the black powder smoke, I saw him jump in the air and do the famous kick, and took off. I watched him run directly away from me and then I heard the crashing and saw the white of his tail and that was it.
Now, my nerves kicked in again and my heart was racing. I took a deep breath and couldn’t believe what had just happened. My dad heard my shot from across the field and texted me to ask if that was me who shot.
I was in total shock. We waited a good 45 minutes until we went to go look. My dad stayed in his stand hoping something would come out since it was still early.
My boyfriend came to help me track. We bean following the blood trail, and not 50 yards away, we saw his white belly sticking out in all the green laurels. I couldn’t believe that I harvested this amazing, mature whitetail buck! Especially since it was my first buck with my CVA Muzzle loader!! This was definitely an N1 Moment that I will never forget!
And that’s what makes moments outdoors so special… sharing them with friends and family.
Thank you to those who read and watch our content and purchase and wear our apparel. We hope you have a Merry Christmas as we celebrate the birth of our Savior, and a Happy New year. We hope 2019 is your best yet, and remember… where the moments happen…. we’ll meet you there… we’ll see you next year.