After almost a decade of hunting whitetail deer with a bow, 23-year-old Noah Goeppner of Huntingburg, Indiana, bagged his first archery buck in October—a 9-point albino deer that he’s been watching for three years.
Goeppner, who has hunted whitetails since he was old enough to tote a 20-gauge slug gun, has harvested bucks during Indiana’s firearms season, and he has shot does with his bow. But that first archery buck remained elusive.
“It just never worked out,” Goeppner tells Field & Stream. “I did hit one about three years ago, but the shot was high and I never found any blood. Then a week later my dad shot that same deer during the first weekend of the gun season.”
Goeppner first spotted the albino buck in 2021 while hunting in the same woodlot where he eventually killed the deer. He saw the buck again last year and passed up a 15-yard shot on what was by then a 6-pointer.
“I had a lot of people telling me I should have shot him last year, but I was like, ‘Well, he made it through the year without anyone else taking him, maybe he’ll make it through another,’” Goeppner says. “So I passed on him.”
A Last Minute Hunt Seals the Deal
This year Goeppner watched the buck blossom into a 9-pointer. “I was getting quite a few pictures on my trail cameras, and he was really the only mature buck that was showing up in the little area that I hunt,” he says. Those summer photos clearly show the buck’s all-white coloration and the pink pigmentation around the snout and ears that are characteristic of a true albino. The brown tones visible around the buck’s antler bases in photos taken after the kill are the result of rut activity like tree rubbing and scent glands kicking into high gear. “By mid-October, his neck was swelled up and he was already rutting,” Goeppner notes, “and I was just waiting for the right time to go after him.”
On Oct. 29, a Sunday, he initially planned to stay home because the forecast called for rain all morning. But he set an alarm anyway, and as soon as he woke up he checked the weather. The clouds had moved through, and the rain was over.
“I figured after a rain would be a good chance, since he’d be out checking scrapes,” Goeppner says. Sure enough, he was in his stand around 9 a.m. when he spotted the white buck, following the same path that he’d watched the deer walk the previous year when he crossed at 15 yards. “He was walking right to me at first, but then it looked like he was going to go off to my right and I wouldn’t even get a shot,” Goeppner recalls. “But he walked 10 yards, made a scrape, then walked another 15 and made a second scrape before turning my way. I stopped him at 15 yards for a perfect broadside shot.”
Goeppner has trained his black Labrador retriever, Nelli, to track whitetails, and he runs a business called Nelli Anne Game Recovery that helps hunters recover their deer. (Indiana is one of a dozen or so states that allow the use of dogs for game recovery, and state regulations require the dog to remain leashed during the tracking process.)
In two years, the pair have helped track around 25 whitetails, although none of those have been one of Goeppner’s deer. Though he was confident of his shot placement, he decided to put Nelli on the job. Despite taking a double-lung hit, the buck still managed to run about 250 yards, but Nelli made short work of the track.
He looks forward to getting a wall mount made of the buck. His favorite keepsake of the hunt, though, is the tale.
“Really the story is the best thing about it,” Goeppner says. “Not a whole lot of people even see an albino deer while hunting, and I was lucky enough to shoot my first buck with a bow that happened to be an albino. I just think it’s a really cool thing to be able to do that. So, I’ve got the story and the mount to show for it, and we’ve made a few batches of jerky and got 60 pounds of burger, plus loins and steaks. We use it all.”
Adds Goeppner, “I’m just really glad I was able to get him with my bow.”