11-Year-Old Hunter Kills a Rare Albino Deer, But Why Is Everyone Celebrating?

One kid in Michigan just achieved what Captain Ahab couldn't, except the boy's Moby Dick wasn't a white whale but a white deer. Oceola Township's Gavin Dingman, 11, killed an albino buck with a crossbow, a feat that would have most adults gloating. It's no surprise that after news broke of Gavin's accomplishment, the fledgling hunter is now a local celebrity. But is this something that should be celebrated? According to reactions on social media, the people are divided.

Albino deer are extremely rare, occurring 1 in 20,000 to 100,000 births. According to Gavin's dad, Mick, the albino deer was a prized target for the entire community, which undoubtedly makes him even more proud of his son. "Quite a few of the guys in the neighborhood were trying to get it," Mick told Livingston Daily. But as fate would have it, the rare animal would ultimately succumb to a grade schooler with a crossbow.

On Monday evening, Gavin and his dad went hunting after dinner and spotted the 12-point buck from about 30 yards away. Gavin told the paper that he was "very nervous," and that his dad helped him calm down to take aim.

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."

How considerate of you. But the promising marksman was able to kill the deer immediately. "I double-lunged it," he exclaimed. I'm not familiar with hunting terms, but I can only imagine that this is a) extremely lethal and b) a really impressive thing for archers. And now Gavin has been propelled to fame overnight. His dad proudly told the Livingston Daily:

He kind of feels like a rock star right now. Everyone is calling, all of the hunting shows and hunting magazines.

Well, you know what happens to child celebrities. He may be a hot, young crossbow star today, but what's to stop young Gavin from becoming a washed-up arrow catalogue model tomorrow?

So what are the Dingmans going to do with the rare, regal albino buck corpse? Besides taking pictures of Gavin with the carcass and posting them on Facebook, the family is going to splurge on a taxidermist. "It's too rare and too pretty not to spend the extra money and have the whole thing done," Mick said.

Naturally, some people are outraged by this kill. But when hunting comes under scrutiny, the enthusiasts are not far behind ringing their support.

The Public's Reactions Are Divided

Many found it morally wrong to kill such a rare creature. One Facebook user said, "Makes me sad that some people don't respect the beauty of nature just for a trophy," while another asked, "If it's rare why the hell would he kill it?" Then there were some who took a more moderate stance. One woman said, "I'm fine with hunting, just hate the 'hey look, it's different, let's shoot it' ideas. Shoot it with a camera and let the unique one live." Another pointed out that "there are plenty of others out there."

Meanwhile, the other side, mostly hunting enthusiasts, supported the boy, mostly based on the reason that it's legal. One commenter said, "He paid good money for his license. He can use it for anything HE chooses. Whether it be a brown deer or an albino buck.... He harvested a great trophy." Another man pointed out that albino deer are a genetic mutation and don't contribute to the gene pool anyway, adding that he was jealous of the kid. Many just told the naysayers to leave the young child alone.

And one person even cried racism: "Look at all the deer racists in here. Shoot the brown ones, save the white ones. Y'all should be ashamed of yourselves. Lol."

Albino Deer Are Considered Sacred to Some

To hunters, albino deer may be coveted trophies and genetic mutations who shouldn't exist in the gene pool anyway, but to others, they're a "spirit" animal to be revered and protected. Most Native American tribes believe that albino animals have spiritual connections to their ancestors. In addition, Native tribes consider the albino animal extra vulnerable and therefore unfair game for hunters.

Some states agree. Hunting albino deer is illegal in several states, including Illinois, Iowa, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and portions of Montana.

Michigan Legalized Hunting Albino Deer For the Most Ridiculous Reason Ever

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Until 2008, Michigan also outlawed hunting albino deer. That legislation was thrown out, however, when too many hunters were mistaking albino deer for piebald deer, which are covered in white and brown patches and are legal to hunt, and one was wrongfully prosecuted. One hunter claims to have passed up the chance to kill a piebald deer out of caution that it might be an albino. Clearly, these regulations were just too difficult to manage, so the state got rid of them altogether. Makes total sense.

Images: Carmen Rodriguez/Flickr, Xeusy/Flickr, Russ Amptmeyer/Flickr, Getty Images (1)