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Timothy Howard

Lousy weather doesn’t stop this meat hunter from taking a rare prize.

By Timothy Howard

Anyone who was rifle hunting in Missouri on opening weekend of 2013 will remember the horrible weather conditions — 70 degrees and 30 mile per hour winds.

It was a Sunday afternoon and I was hunting with my wife Bryannon in Benton County, just south of Cole Camp. We’d just talked about how we weren’t going to see anything since deer don’t usually move when it’s hot and windy.

As I explained to my wife, however, hunting is about putting in your time, even when you know you’re not going to see anything. That’s when you often see amazing things. So, we stayed.

We were in the Ozarks hunting halfway up one ridge facing the valley and another ridge. Toward the middle of the ridge in front of us, I saw something white walk into a small clearing. As I picked up my binoculars to get a better look and joked with my wife: “Wouldn’t it be cool if it was an albino?”

It was!

I’ve taken my share of deer and don’t normally get buck fever, but this was crazy. My friends and I have always talked about things like 30-point bucks and rare trophies of that nature.

I had it in the crosshairs at about 200 yards, but I waited about 5 minutes, which felt like 5 hours, before the albino doe came down the ridge for a better shot.

When I felt the wind kick up, I realized the southwest wind was straight at my back and blowing right at the deer. She caught our scent, stopped, looked around and turned, walking up the ridge the opposite direction from us.

I was mad at myself for waiting. Earlier that day I had missed a doe at almost half that distance. While I have killed deer at farther distances, I didn’t want to make the same mistake again.

Timothy HowardHad I missed my chance?

“Maybe it wasn’t meant to be,” I told my wife.

I sat there dismayed, but decided see if fate would intervene. I climbed down from the stand as quietly as possible and walked about 30 yards to the southeast.

I couldn’t believe it. I saw the doe again through the brush and trees. It was now or never.

Leaning against a small white oak, once again I had it in the crosshairs. I took the shot, but the deer didn’t move. I wasn’t sure if I’d hit or missed my mark so I watched for a minute or two.

I asked my wife to get down from the stand and keep her eye on the little white spot up on the ridge in case I couldn’t find it when I got there because it was a pretty far shot through the trees.

As I walked up the ridge, there it was: a true albino deer. I was so excited! It had pink eyes, white nose and hooves. It was 100 percent white with no spots anywhere. I kept telling my wife how rare this was, that most hunters hunt their entire life and never even see an albino deer.

I’ve never considered myself a trophy hunter. I always eat what I kill and feel great remorse if I lose a deer because I made a poor shot. Whether it’s a buck or doe, I usually take the first deer that comes along.

I have also learned some people are fairly sensitive to taking a rare animal like an albino deer. I have gotten a lot of congratulations, and also a lot of negativity. To those who hunt and say I should have let it walk, I would like to defend myself.

If a 30-point buck and a 6-point buck were standing in front of you, which one would you shoot? That’s the way I see it, there is no difference between a work of nature like a 30-point buck and an albino deer, buck or doe.

With the weather so warm and windy, I’d never thought this would be the weekend for such success. This is a story to tell my kids and grandkids in the future, and one I will never forget.

I do not see myself as some expert hunter or professional. I am an Eagle Scout, and I am always going out to hunt even when no one else does — rain, snow, cold or hot. It really boils down to being in the right place at the right time, and someone above smiling down and acknowledging my effort. This was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Editor’s note: While several states still protect albino deer, there is no biological reason to do so. In fact, albino deer are more likely to have genetic defects like shorter legs or Roman noses. Nevertheless, we at Buckmasters believe it should be up to the hunters of each state to decide the best regulations for their neck of the woods.

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