It’s one thing to encounter a remarkable albino, or “ghost deer,” and harvest it as a trophy. But it’s another entirely to let it roam free.
Such is the case for this Illinois hunter who just had the most harrowing encounter of his career. It’s a once in a lifetime sighting, and although Jamie Lambert chose not to bag and tag this beauty, he’ll always have the footage to prove it.
Speaking to local McClatchy News via phone, Lambert says the sighting took place on the first day of Illinois’ shotgun season, November 12. He would pass on an impressive 8-pointer as the sun rose, as his gut told him something even more striking might be out in the timber. He was right.
“Half an hour later, that’s when the white one appeared,” the 42-year-old hunter tells the trade. Instead of shooting the albino deer, which many outdoors folk refer to as elusive “ghost deer,” he reached for his phone.
“I heard something walking in the woods and it was about 150, 200 yards behind me crunching the leaves, and I slowly turned around and looked and thought ‘What the hell is that? Is that a horse or a goat? What is that?’” Lambert recalls. “Then I noticed it had antlers and I thought ‘holy cow.’”
Jamie’s resulting footage is nothing short of breathtaking:
“Great job letting him walk. Killing a deer is easy but to let that trophy walk was awesome. Let him spread that gene pool,” a fellow hunter comments on Lambert’s Facebook video. “In my book, YOU GOT HIM.”
Hunter’s Decision to Appreciate Albino Deer Sparks Praise From Fellow Outdoors Folk
There’s no shame in a glorious trophy. It’s part of the hunt. But when a hunter’s heart tells them to spare a magnificent creature, that’s a rarity worth embracing.
“I want to see him grow old,” Jamie says. It was a wise call, too. In some states, bagging an albino deer is fine. In many – like Illinois – however, it happens to be illegal. Yet Lambert says he just “preferred” the buck live. A lucky happenstance.
“Good on you for letting it walk. I’m not sure I could have!” another hunter offers.
There’s a whole lot more to the term “ghost deer” than their appearance, too. The term caught on originally simply because there’s several natural causes for a deer to wind up stark white.
The Types, and Causes, of ‘Ghost Deer’
A white deer can be albino. But it can also be leucistic or piebald. From a stand, all three are identical. Each are near-to-completely white in coloration; sometimes even down to their antlers and hooves. Only albino deer, however, have the tell-tale pink eyes.
Albinism in mammals often results in poor eyesight, too. This makes albinos the rarest of the three as they rarely survive long in the wild. Being a striking, non-camouflaged target for predators (including us hunting humans) doesn’t help, either.
Lambert says his deer didn’t appear to have pink eyes, which is apparent in his footage. This would make it a piebald or leucistic; both making up for less than 1% of all deer species (like the red deer featured in our cover image). Regardless, it’s an animal he hopes to see thrive and give other Outsiders the viewing of a lifetime.