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First Minnesota deer hunting trip lands hunter rare piebald deer

ST. PAUL Every hunter's first deer is memorable. But Joshua Winchell's likely won't be forgotten for anyone who saw it Saturday; it's possible they'll never see another one quite like it. On his first time deer hunting in Minnesota -- and his sec...

ST. PAUL

Every hunter's first deer is memorable.

But Joshua Winchell's likely won't be forgotten for anyone who saw it Saturday; it's possible they'll never see another one quite like it.

On his first time deer hunting in Minnesota -- and his second time deer hunting anywhere -- Winchell shot a piebald whitetail deer, a rare spotted creature that looks like anything but a deer.

Pat Maranda, his hunting partner, thought it was a dog.

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"He was driving down a dirt road, and he saw what he thought was a dog at first," Winchell, 33, said of Maranda's initial sighting.

Maranda, a family friend of Winchell's fiancee, has been hunting the public land near his hometown of Outing -- about 150 miles north of St. Paul -- for about half a century and was serving as a sort of mentor to Winchell, who lives in Oakdale.

"But when he looked closer, he thought it was a white deer with brown spots," Winchell said. "He didn't tell anyone because he didn't think they would believe it."

The pair combed through the state regulations and determined that, whatever it was -- albino or spotted -- there was nothing preventing either of them from shooting it. Winchell even downloaded a copy of the regulations to his iPhone so he could have it handy in his deer stand.

Around 10:30 a.m. Saturday, the opening day of Minnesota's firearms deer season, Maranda shot a four-point buck -- a normal buck. About 35 minutes later, a creature strode into Winchell's field of view, about 30 yards away. He studied it with his eyes, then through his rifle scope.

"I knew it wasn't an albino; I knew it was OK to shoot it, but I still thought it was a goat," Winchell said. "Is it a goat? Is it a cow? It's the craziest thing, and he stuck out like a cotton ball in the middle of the woods. Then I said, 'Nope, that's the deer that Pat told me about.' "

Crazy can also be beautiful, and it gave Winchell pause.

"I watched it walk for just a second. It was absolutely gorgeous. And I wondered whether I should just let it live. Obviously, you can see what I decided to do."

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A single shot to the left shoulder dropped the deer where it stood -- a hunter's dream.

When Winchell arrived at the animal, he was surprised to see 4-inch spike antlers on it. "I couldn't see them from the stand because of that white fur," he said. "Actually, had I known it was a buck, I probably wouldn't have taken the shot. I would have given him another year to grow a rack."

Like albinism, piebaldism occurs in animals as a result of recessive genes, but the two conditions are distinct. Albinos lack the ability to create any pigment, resulting in reddish eyes; piebalds are otherwise normal animals whose coats are precluded from fully coloring. Piebalds are believed to be slightly more common than albinos, which occur about once every 30,000 births.

Winchell plans on having the deer preserved in a full mount.

"I wouldn't do it justice just to take the meat," he said. "It just deserved more than that."

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Related Topics: HUNTING
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