The way out here

Precious piebald

By HUNTER HILL
Posted 9/16/20

Lot’s of people go hunting every year whether for sport, for food or for family time. This year seems to be no exception, especially with the current pandemic pushing folks to do more outside …

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The way out here

Precious piebald

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Lot’s of people go hunting every year whether for sport, for food or for family time. This year seems to be no exception, especially with the current pandemic pushing folks to do more outside than ever before. After all, who doesn’t want to do something where you can take your mask off and breathe a little? Fall brings with it the bulk of yearly hunting seasons, and that is mostly due to it being the peak physical time to harvest many of these animals. As we head into winter, hair grows, antlers grow, animals scrounge to fatten themselves up as much as possible before the snow falls and, just like beef cattle or a pig reaching their finished weight, so, too, are deer, bear, turkey and other game we spend our year dreaming about. I have the rare privilege to see a lot of this first hand, having grown up helping my father with his hunting business Adam Hill Hunting Adventures.

I was recently at his preserve where he conducts guided hunts for more exotic animals, few of which are native to this region of the Northeast. Among those I was able to get close to while visiting was a piebald doe. For reference, a piebald deer is a completely white or partially white with brown-haired deer. The difference between these and an albino is that albinos are completely lacking in body pigment. They have a pink nose, eyes and hooves. Both are typically white-haired, however, as I said, the piebald deer can have large brown portions of hair in addition to the white. Anyway, this doe was nice enough to come close and pose for a picture, which I was obliged to take.

She reminded me of other piebalds I’ve seen in the area, though, and although she may seem exotic, she is, in fact, as native to the area as any other whitetail deer, just not as common with the genetic differentiation. Some hunters have been known to pass on these deer, allowing them to grow larger and hopefully breed with other deer, causing the genes to occur more often in the local population. Ultimately, there’s nothing wrong with these deer, but for survival purposes, they tend to lack the camouflage that is afforded to their earth-colored siblings.

Certainly, they are a unique kind of creature, not at risk of endangerment by any means, and just as healthy to consume as any other deer. Hunters who do choose to harvest these deer more often than not save the hide whether by having it mounted or by tanning it to be hung decoratively. In either case, the honor that these blanched beasts receive is consistently reverent.

Imagine, if you will, the perspective of the hunter sitting in his tree-stand waiting from the breaking of dawn for his quarry to arrive. Perhaps there is a clearing ahead of him with unadulterated foliage about knee high being tickled with the receding misty fog of morning. A hunter waiting in this Eden-like clearing would be still and comfortable, listening to the morning sounds of birds waking from their nests and roosts. The hunter hears, perhaps, the white noise of the softest breeze as it causes surrounding tree boughs to sigh and yawn; the sun brings steam from the night-nipped earth and warms the air that is filled with suspended pollen and the occasional insect flitting randomly about. Now that you have this picture, out steps our character. Into the clearing, this deer walks slowly, almost glowing with the stark contrast of its white body against the woodland backdrop. At a short distance, even, these deer move so smoothly and silently that, in their visible steps, one may not even be able to ascertain the sound of their footfalls, making their presence all the more mystifying.

Exhilarating only describes the feeling in part when seeing these animals in nature. The way out here certainly comes with the cold-hard facts of life and the dirty jobs that keep us all alive. But the way out here, at times like these, is nothing short of magical.

deer, piebald

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