The text message Brooklet resident Travis Wilson received Wednesday morning was only two words, but he knew what they meant to his friend Jim Doud.
Doud had just shot an eight-point piebald buck.
“You’re kidding me,” Wilson texted back.
The rare piebald deer – commonly colored like all whitetail deer but with splashes of white across its body – wasn’t a newcomer to the area behind Southeast Bulloch High School, where members of the Flake Branch Hunting Club have been watching the buck grow.
“We’ve been letting this deer go for four years,” Wilson said. Until this year, when the unusual buck was big enough to harvest, members were warned not to shoot him and faced a fine if they did. But the buck was fair game this fall, and Doud, who is fighting stage four prostate cancer, took the prize.
“It was a very lucky morning,” he said Wednesday afternoon, still basking in the glow of his kill. “I saw it last year, but it was just a little bit small.”
He asked Wilson to hunt with him Wednesday, to have someone with him in case of trouble considering he just completed 20 rounds of radiation this summer and is finishing up a series of chemotherapy treatments. His cancer is “a fast-growing, very rare cancer that is not curable, but is treatable,” he said.
Instead of giving up, Doud decided to seize opportunity by the horns and “I am still living my life,” he said.
The South Effingham County resident has been a member of the Flake Branch Hunting Club for four years. He took the killing shot around 6:50 a.m. Wednesday.
Rare genetic defect
Piebald deer are rare, “but not too rare,” said Greg Waters, wildlife biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. What causes piebald deer’s unusual color patterns is “a genetic defect found in Georgia and all over. Some counties have a propensity to have more” than an occasional sighting.
At least once a year, someone in Bulloch County reports having seen a piebald deer, Waters said. Wilson said there is one mounted on display at Stilson Country Café at the intersection of Hwy. 80 and Hwy. 119 Connector – a four point buck that has been on display there for years.
“They really stand out,” Waters said. Some hunters let them go, happy to see the piebald deer roam free, while others want the unusual trophy.
Killing piebald deer may be helpful in controlling the birth of deformed deer, as the genetic makeup that produces the mottled pattern also produces birth defects.
“Sometimes they have a short, rounded Roman nose, and swollen (or misshapen) joints,” he said.
According to reports found on Internet website www.realtree.com, David Osborn, wildlife research coordinator at the University of Georgia Deer Research Facility said “The birth defects in piebald deer can vary widely. One deer may not have any ill effects at all. Another might look normal, but actually have problems such as scoliosis, arthritis and internal issues. Obviously, in nature, being white is a disadvantage because they can’t elude predators as well.”
White (whether albino or leucistic) and piebald deer are protected from harvest in some areas. A leucistic deer appears solid white but is not a true albino, which has pink eyes and skin and lacks any pigment at all.
According to the website. Oklahoma required a permit from the state wildlife director to shoot a piebald deer up until a few years ago. In Iowa it is illegal to hunt deer that are “predominantly white,” or 50 percent white, and albino deer are protected in Tennessee.
Doud plans to have the piebald buck preserved in a full body mount, showing the deer’s unusual beauty, he said. He has contacted Bass Pro Shops to discuss possible display in their stores.
“It is too rare, too pretty not to do a full body mount,” he said.
Wilson said he is thrilled that his friend got the deer he wanted so badly last year. “Only four of us have seen the deer,” he said. “I’m so proud for him to get it.”
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.