Death of Another Leland White Deer: Why the Current White Deer Law Is Not Working

According to current DNR regulations, none of these deer qualify as a white
deer.  All were legally shot in the Leland area in recent years.  If white deer
are protected in Wisconsin, how can this be happening?

Nine years ago the Leland community was shaken after a popular white buck was shot during the 2012 gun deer season. It was technically a legal kill (white deer protection had recently been removed in the area because of Chronic Wasting Disease), but as local resident Brandon Yanke told a Ch 3 reporter, it was not an ethical kill.

There was a community understanding that the 2012 buck was off-limits to hunters—too fine, too rare, and too unique to be shot. What was especially disturbing was that the hunter who shot the buck was from “out of town.” Coming into a community and knowingly shooting their favorite deer is not exactly an act of respect.

The locals that had watched this buck grow up and reveled in its beauty for its five and a half years didn’t exactly share the hunter’s elation. The fallout after the “Leland buck” was killed was seismic. Local news media picked up on the story and it went viral both nationally and abroad, appearing even in UK’s Daily Mail.

Fast forward to November 2021. The whole scene happens again, but this time it was a local resident who shot the deer and he used a bow to buy himself a trophy and bragging rights. If white deer are protected in Wisconsin (which now includes CWD counties, too), how could this happen?

This latest killing brings up the issue, once again, of what exactly constitutes a “white” deer.

These two deer (and several others that have been shot in the area and statewide) were entirely white except for a very small spot or two of brown. As far as Wisconsin law goes, that qualifies the deer as a “piebald,” or partially white deer, and makes them legal game. The DNR still has yet to address this very glaring loophole in white deer law.

After the death of the first white buck, a group of local residents organized to protect the plight of the remaining white deer. Although “Protect the White Deer” was successful in getting white deer protection reinstated in CWD-affected counties, they have not yet been successful at broadening the legal definition of a white deer.

How many other white deer will meet a similar fate unless the law is changed? Granted, Wisconsin is lucky to have any white deer law at all, but the state could do so much better (Iowa already has a law which protects deer that are more than 50% white). These deer are a public resource and they belong to everyone—not just to the first person who shoots them.