Is It Bad Luck to Shoot A White Deer? Hunters Respond
March 12, 2023
Is it bad luck to shoot a white deer? Several hunter forums asked their readers this very question. Some of the more interesting answers, along with excerpts on the topic from other sources, are printed below. They range from the probably-coincidental to the head-shakingly-unexplainable.
A Native American’s view
Very protective: I know personally that the taking of Albino animals especially Whitetail is frowned upon by our Native Americans, they are very protective of white animals, so if you take an Albino, be careful who you tell. We have 8-9 Albino Whitetails on a friends land and even he will not allow harvesting them, he also says the Native Americans in that area would be looking for you if you did. I personally would not shoot a white deer, they are so beautiful and rare. (mnoutdoorsman.com-2008)
Sacred animals: I would not shoot an albino anything. Pat was right when he talked about the Native Americans frowning on this. A friend of mine shot a albino squirrel, we stopped at a store and an older Native American lady saw the squirrel and was very upset, she told us about the white animals of the woods being sacred and that killing such an animal was very bad luck. All I can say is boy I am sure glad I did not shoot it, and as far as the bad luck goes, all I can say is my friend will never, ever, shoot anything albino again. (mnoutdoorsman.com-2008)
No way: I am mostly blackfoot indian as my granpap was pure blackfoot! Its a spiritual thing and no way would i even think about it! I have known several guys that (did) and none of them made it to the next hunting season! Believe what you want but i know i will NEVER take an albino! (huntingPA-2009)
Around the world
A persistent legend: One of the most persistent legends is that a hunter killing a white deer will experience a long run of bad luck, perhaps never bagging another deer. This idea seems almost universal among hunting cultures. Hunting writer Peter Flack notes in his book Kudu that hunters across Africa believe misfortune (sometimes including death) will befall any hunter who kills a white antelope. (outdoornews.com-2020) and (nature.org-2016)
A curse and death: “Hunters in Germany are resisting a call to kill a rare albino deer buck dubbed White Bambi. Hunter Gottfried Meier, 60, told The Times that many hunters believe in a curse said to befall any hunter who kills a white deer: that he or a member of his family shall die within a year. (animals24-7.org-2014)
Early settlers: It was said that if early settlers saw a white buck in the woods, nobody would shoot it for fear of bad luck. (urngarden.com–2008)
The National Deer Alliance did a member poll in 2019 with questions about albino deer. “Just for fun” they asked poll-takers if the white deer superstition would influence their decision to shoot a white deer. While almost 90% said “no,” it was the small group who said “yes’ who seemed to have first hand experience.
An untimely demise: Several (responders) told stories of hunters who shot albinos meeting an untimely demise shortly thereafter. “I have been told on numerous occasions that my grandfather’s friend shot an albino deer in the 70’s or 80’s. He died less than six months later,” wrote one person. Another wrote, “Near where I live, a man shot an albino deer in the fall, and less than a mile from where he shot it, he lost his life in a vehicle accident the following year. After that, nobody around here would ever consider shooting an albino.” Most who responded talked of general bad luck when deer hunting after shooting an albino, and that was the most popular response. (National Deer Alliance-2019)
Are hunters superstitious?: Despite that 90% figure in the Deer Alliance poll, hunters may be a lot more superstitious than they care to admit. An article from an archery website (Elevation Equipped) details the common superstitions hunters rely on for success–from a special arrow, to an heirloom bow, to the right moon phase, a lucky stand or lucky gear. The article begins: “Hunters and outdoorsmen and women can be a superstitious bunch at times.” The article also mentions that many hunters believe it is good luck to see a white deer and “extremely bad luck” to shoot one. (elevationequipped.com-2020)
Maybe a coincidence
Only 51: I always heard it was bad luck to kill an albino. A few years ago, my uncle shot an albino doe, and a few months later he passed away…he had a heart attack and was only 51 yrs old. (huntingnet.com-2005)
Horrible luck: I have been trying to track down the MN lady who shot the albino six pointer back in 07. Some folks who claim to know her say she has been having horrible luck… (outdoorlife.com-2010)
Still hoping: I’ve been hoping that someone would log on & tell us how crazy we are for believing is such things then tell us they shot many albinos in there time & there still living a very good life. I guess I’m going to have to keep hoping for now… (outdoorlife.com-2010)
Maybe not a coincidence
Definitely has my attention: I’ve mounted five true albinos in my 30 year career as a professional taxidermist. Of those five clients…three died within a year or two of the kills, one is serving a life sentence for murder and the other got divorced shortly after picking his head up and lost everything—including the house his parents gave him and all of his guns. There are a LOT of superstitions in the world and a lot of them carry some weight. This one definitely has my attention. (outdoorlife.com-2010)
Rather not risk it: I shot (a white deer) when I was 12…I did have bad luck in the 7 years after. Near death tree stand accident, stuck my knife in my wrist while field dressing a doe, a few car wrecks you name it. You couldn’t pay me to shoot another, even if it was a monster buck. LOL coincidence most likely but Id rather not risk it… (outdoorlife.com-2013)
A thousand dollars: A few years ago, a friend of mine…called me. “I just shot a huge, white buck,” Tommy said. I told him that anyone who shoots a white deer has angered the gods and will never have another successful hunt. Well, Tommy had a bunch of bad luck after that. Some anti-hunters had him arrested for shooting the deer too close to the highway. The game warden confiscated the deer as well as his hunting license. He later got both of them back when found not guilty in court, but the lawyer cost him well over a thousand dollars before it was over. Actually, the deer was shot several hundred yards back in the woods but ran out next to the highway before dropping. Other negative things happened, but let’s move on. (Rick Brockway-thedailystar.com-2014)
Random and bizarre: A hunter explains what happened after a friend shot a white deer that ”wobbled off into the woods” as he climbed down his tree stand: For the rest of that hunting season, my buddy endured a lengthy list of random, bizarre problems and accidents unlike anything he or I have seen even to this day. Like the day he was riding on the tailgate of a pickup truck across a field during a deer hunt, and the truck hit a bump, which brought the raised window of the truck’s bed cap crashing down on his head. The glass shattered, sending shards down his back, and he was knocked off the tailgate to the ground. No, I’ll never shoot a white deer. (lancasteronline.com-2016)
Can’t figure out what’s wrong: I was hunting on public land in 2B and I shot a leucistic doe …I was SO excited. Once I had collected her up and put her in my jeep I started making the rounds to show off to my friends. That’s when the trouble started. One after another my hunting ‘friends’ showed disgust that I would shoot such an animal. Relatives of mine told me I should have taken a picture instead. A few of the old timers told me I’d be cursed and will no longer hunt with me. (huntingPA.com-2013)
Collateral damage: If a fella is hunting on another person’s private property, he might want to think twice about shooting albino deer. A few years back I was in Va hunting with the in-laws and a fella hunting on adjacent property shot an albino. Landowner closed his 300 acres the following year because he was ticked off. My property in Pa is not posted but if I found out someone shot an albino on my land, it would be posted the next day. (huntingPA.com-2009)
Bad luck on a grand scale
Not found in the history books: (Archduke) Franz Ferdinand (heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne) had every reason to suppose that he was bound to die. This legend—not found in the history books but (says the London Times) preserved as an oral tradition among Austria’s huntsmen—records that, in 1913, the heavily armed archduke had shot a rare white stag, and adds that it was widely believed of any hunter who killed such an animal “that he or a member of his family shall die within a year.” Less than a year later Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo, an event which triggered the First World War. (smithsonianmag.com-2013)
Animal karma: A side note on the Franz Ferdinand story (also from smithsonianmagazine-April 2013): “There is nothing inherently implausible in this legend—or at least not in the idea that Franz Ferdinand might have mown down a rare animal without thinking twice about it. The archduke was a committed and indiscriminate huntsman, whose personal record, when in pursuit of small game…was 2,140 kills in a day and how, according to the record he meticulously compiled in his own game book, had been responsible for the deaths of a grand total of 272,439 animals during his lifetime, the majority of which had been loyally driven straight toward his overheating guns by a large assembly of beaters.” (Looks like the “ghosts” of more animals than just the white stag may have had it in for Ferdinand. Either that or someone wanted to save what was left of Austria-Hungary’s wildlife.)
The measure of a hunter’s heart
Shooting a white deer is considered bad luck, but conversely, seeing a white deer is considered good luck and a sign of good things to come.
Nothing else comes close: An interesting response to the Deer Alliance poll mentioned above, offered a different story and perspective: One person wrote to say that for him, passing on an albino led to his fortune in the deer woods. As he put it, “Like owls, I’d always considered seeing an albino deer would be a gift to measure a hunter’s heart. Hunting is much, much more than the taking of game. The true albino doe that I saw (and only 100% pure white deer I’ve ever seen) was legal, but I was floored by her beauty. Talk about a real ghost of the woods! I watched her for some time and gave thanks for the privilege. Within minutes of her leaving, a nice buck showed up and I shot him. Nothing else in all my years of hunting has come close to matching this.” (National Deer Alliance-2019)
Guaranteed good luck
There are an estimated 36 million deer in the entire country (U.S.). Only a microscopic number of those deer are white. Some naturalists estimate the chances of a white deer being born are between 1 in 20,000 and 1 in 100,000. The vast majority of people will never encounter a white deer in their entire lives. Perhaps the luck factor isn’t what will happen after seeing a white deer, but the very fact that you saw one at all! However you measure it, It is a very special event.