January 09, 2008
Would You Shoot an Albino Buck?
By Scott Bestul
I have deer hunted in Buffalo County, Wisconsin for over 20 years. Buffalo is a well-known destination for whitetail nuts, as it boasts more B&C and P&Y entries than any county in the nation. I’ve traveled enough to say that there are probably more mature whitetails per square mile living there than anywhere I’ve been. I have also traveled enough to say there are few tougher places to kill a mature whitetail buck than Buffalo County.
What is less widely known about Buffalo Co. is that albino deer are fairly common there. In fact it’s entirely possible—after talking to the right people—to drive around some summer evening and see a pretty good wad of white deer feeding in soybean and alfalfa fields. While there’s no such thing as an ugly deer, albinos are a pretty darn special sight. The people of Wisconsin think they’re so special that you can get into big trouble for shooting one.
Of course, right across the Mississippi River from there is my home state of Minnesota. Kill a white deer here and you’ll get your picture in the paper, and not in the “district court report” section. Protecting albinos is an interesting thing. Most of us know by now that these are genetically inferior deer that in most cases are poorly equipped to survive in the wild. Indeed, some of my Wisconsin friends have found albino bucks dying in the middle of summer from any of a host of diseases they’re susceptible to. Naturally, there are exceptions. About five years ago, I was hunting Buffalo and rattled in a 3-1/2 year old albino buck with an 8-point rack. That deer is still alive. He is now a monstrous 10-point with candelabra antlers that appear anything but genetically inferior. People drive for miles to check him out, lining up along his favorite fields with spotting scopes sprouting from their truck windows.
This background made me perk up when reader Maurice King, from Mansfield, Ohio, sent us the accompanying photo. Maurice shot an albino buck with his crossbow this October, in a state where it is legal to do so, and he's proud of his unique trophy. It's the way we should all feel about every whitetail we decide to harvest.
Naturally, this story got me to thinking about rattling in that beautiful white deer awhile back. Had that hunt occurred in Ohio (or indeed, my home state), where albinos are fair game, would I have shot the buck? I have zero problem with states that allow albino deer to be shot. I also completely understand that some people couldn’t drop the hammer on such a deer. That said, I can honestly say that I don’t know what I’d do. But I bet some of you guys have stronger convictions—one way or the other—than I. So let’s hear ‘em.