RAYVILLE, Mo. - Open firearms deer season started in Missouri just three days ago, and nearly 90,000 deer were bagged in the opening weekend. That's down considerably compared to last year's opening weekend.
Experts say there are fewer deer in some areas. Few are like the one Bob Austin nabbed. Austin says he saw several deer making their way down a hill in a wooded area, and one stood out from the pack. It was an albino deer. Austin says only the doe's eyes had pigment, they were a shade of blue. Tammy Pierson couldn't wait to see the albino deer herself.
"This is the first call in my fifteen year career for an albino deer," Pierson, a conservation agent with the Missouri Department of Conservation says.
Pierson says less than one percent of the deer population has any form of albanism. What makes finding one even rarer is the fact many don't live long.
"The opportunity for it to be taken by a predator including a coyote is just so much more likely," Pierson explains.
Because they stand out, predators are more likely to snag one, and many have deformities. The one Austin got seemed to be smaller than it should, for example. That doesn't matter to Austin or his grandkids.
"Their exact words were awesome, Papaw!" Austin recalls.
They watch in fascination as "Papaw" shows off his trophy. Now he says he's happy others will be able to see it rather than being taken by predators in the wild unable to hide among the trees.
Austin is having the deer fully mounted, which he says takes about six months. The deer was not a full albino because its eyes were blue, not red.