An 11-year-old hunter from Oceola Township, Michigan took the deer of a lifetime when he shot a 12-point albino buck with a crossbow on Monday. The animal was well-known to local hunters, but Gavin Dingman ended up being the one to harvest it.
“My dad was just like, ‘Take a deep breath. Are you sure you can take the shot? If you’re not 100 percent, we don’t want to injure it,'” Gavin told the Daily Press & Argus.
The sixth-grader was hunting with his dad, Mick Dingman, at the time. Although this albino buck was not Gavin’s first deer nor likely his last, it will be one that he will remember for a long, long time. Albino deer are incredibly rare, and mature bucks rarer still. Even sightings of these snow-colored deer are notable occasions, and only a handful of hunters have had the chance to harvest an albino buck. Wildlife biologists estimate that perhaps only one in a 100,000 deer are born albino.
True albino deer are markedly different from white deer, which carry recessive genes for all-white coats. One visual difference between the two is that all albino deer have pink facial features, notably the ears and nose. Albino deer are also sometimes born with health issues and even if they survive into adulthood, their strange coloration means that they make a big target for predators.
Some wildlife experts advocate targeting deer with albinism, since the trait is seen as undesirable among wild populations. However, some people see albino and white deer as animals that shouldn’t be hunted. Whatever the opinion, most sportsmen agree that the choice to either take or pass on a deer is entirely up to the hunter.
Yet not everyone thinks that way. A call to Mick Dingman revealed that what had once been a celebration over his son’s unique deer has quickly turned into something else.
“We’ve had death threats and everything else that you can imagine,” he told OutdoorHub.
The Dingmans did not expect a backlash on social media and in real life over the albino deer. Much of the criticism came from anti-hunting advocates and family members described the threats as graphic and disturbing. In addition to specific death threats, critics used to opportunity to bash hunting in general. Commenters on WZZM’s Facebook, which reported the story, called for a ban on hunting or even an “open season” on sportsmen. However, there were those who supported the Dingman family.
“Great trophy! Be proud young man!” wrote one commenter.
“While I personally am not a deer hunter, I think this young hunter is being taught very well. That [deer] will make for many meals for his family and a nice memory of time spent with his father,” stated another.
Most agreed that no matter your stance on hunting, sending personal death threats is not the correct way to go about debating the issue. Hopefully not too long from now, Gavin and his family can look back on this hunt with only pride and good memories.