”It was the hardest shot I’ve ever had to make,” Eddie Lyback, of Isle, said, referring to a shot that put an albino buck out of its misery last week.
Lyback never expected to shoot a white deer and never wanted to. He and his neighbors, who between Isle and Wahkon on the south shore of Mille Lacs, had an agreement to not shoot any of the white deer that roam the woods around Father Hennepin State Park.
Someone who was not part of that agreement thought otherwise. “For someone to come from outside the area and shoot it illegally–that’s really low,” Lyback said.
According to Lyback, a hunter came to his house on the afternoon of Saturday, Nov. 20, asking permission to search Lyback’s property for a deer he shot on Friday night.
Lyback told the hunter that he could not legally hunt in the area he was hunting since all the land adjacent to the road was either posted or state park land. Shooting from the road is illegal in Minnesota.
“If you shot one of those white ones, you’re really in trouble,” Lyback added.
The hunter told Lyback he shot the deer out of a group and wasn’t sure what color it was.
Lyback followed the man and saw where he had been hunting, confirming his suspicion that the deer could not have been shot legally in the area.
The next morning, Lyback himself was out hunting, when he heard crows making a commotion over a spruce swamp on his property. Because they were perched in the trees and not flying around, Lyback suspected an animal was down.
After searching the area, he found the deer, which was still alive but had a large hole in its shoulder. He said the eyes were glazed over, and it appeared that the shoulder was blown away.
Lyback called conservation officer Bruce Hall, who told him to put it out of its misery. Lyback reluctantly obeyed.
The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported on the incident last week, saying the DNR was investigating whether the hunter was trespassing on private land and/or shooting from a roadway. The paper quoted Hall as saying that the buck will be mounted and displayed at Father Hennepin State Park.
Three albino white-tailed bucks and one doe have been killed in the Mille Lacs area this year.
One albino buck was shot legally on the opening weekend of deer season. A picture of that buck appeared in the Messenger.
A third albino buck reportedly was killed by a car between Onamia and Pine Center on the west side of Mille Lacs. That buck was not believed to be of the same group as the other two.
An albino doe was killed by a car between Wahkon and Cove late in the summer.
Albino deer, protected in Wisconsin, are not given special protection by the law in Minnesota. Albinism is caused by a lack of pigment. Because of inbreeding, concentrations of albino deer often are found in the same area.
Father Hennepin State Park manager Bob John told the Pioneer Press that the two bucks that were shot were true albinos with pink eyes and ears, grayish hooves and white coats and that four or five albino deer remain in the area.
“I know for sure we still have two left in the park,” Johnson said. “They’re quite a draw around this area. They’re pretty tame, and kids and locals enjoy having them around.”
Eddie Lyback said, “The good news is that there’s one buck left, and it’s the biggest one.” He thinks that buck will continue to produce offspring to delight both residents and visitors of the area.
Mark Lenarz, DNR forest wildlife supervisor, said it’s hard to estimate how many albino deer live in Minnesota. “They’re certainly rare, but not unheard of,” Lenarz said.
Every year, several albino deer are killed in Minnesota.
Lyback said he has heard rumors that large bounties were being paid for albino deer, which may have been an incentive for some to target the white deer this fall.
Lyback contacted Cabela’s in Owatonna to see if the rumor was true, and he was told by one of the buyers that the Cabela’s owner had told store employees not to purchase any non-typical mounts.
Names of other outdoors stores had been mentioned in the rumors as well, according to Lyback.
A representative from Gander Mountain told the Messenger that their displays are on loan from taxidermists, so they don’t purchase any mounts.
A manager of one of the Gaylan’s stores in the Twin Cities said the stores purchase mounts when the stores are being built, but they stop purchasing them once the stores are full. He said the store does not have a policy on non-typical animals but that none of the Twin Cities stores are currently buying mounts.