Al Roberts has hunted rare and difficult game all over the country, but it was on the morning of Dec. 24 that he would take his most prized kill at a Webster County hunting club with his daughter.
Al Roberts has been a hunter for the past 17 years, has worked for many outdoor companies, owns his own outdoors outfitter company and regularly hunts all over the country. So imagine his shock when it was in a Webster County hunting club when he saw a deer with a rare condition: melanism. This whitetail doe had very dark fur, black eyes and only one spot of white on its leg. Deer with melanism are found almost exclusively in the Midwest and Southwest parts of the United States.
This story begins on the afternoon of Dec. 23, when Al and his 13-year-old daughter, Jazmyne, were hunting in a tower stand and saw movement. There was a small group of does moving from a clearcut in the direction of a food plot, and among these does, one looked different.
“As soon as I saw it, I knew what it was,” said Al.
This small deer was only about a 1 1/2 years old old and appeared to be melanistic. When Al noticed this, he exclaimed to his daughter the rarity of their find, and he knew he wanted Jazmyne to get this deer.
“I really wanted my daughter to hit this deer. It’s the trophy of a lifetime. I’ve been very lucky. This one is all about her,” Al said.
As Jazmyne was about to take the shot, the deer moved out of range and into some brush. Knowing they had missed their chance for the night, the two left a majority of their things in the stand with plans to return early the next morning.
At around 8:30 a.m. on Dec. 24, Al and Jazmyne spotted the same group of does for the second time. Al was looking through his binoculars when he noticed movement in some brush around 230 yards away. He pointed out the melanistic deer to his daughter and gave her the green light to take the shot. However, she was uncomfortable with the shot and told her dad to take it instead.
Al took the shot at 285 yards and successfully killed the melanistic deer.
“I was completely blown away. I’ve seen tens of thousands of deer all over the country, and I’ve yet to ever put my eyes on one of these. I’ve only seen a couple of pictures,” said Al.
Al contacted the DNR for confirmation on the doe’s melanism. He spoke with biologist Brent Howe, who gave him more information on deer with the condition and melanism as a whole.
“It’s just a genetic abnormality that causes dark pigment in hair and skin,” said Brent.
Melanism is similar to albinism in the way that it is a result of a gene mutation. But melanism is much more rare in deer and other species, including humans.
“I’ve never even heard of one in the state of Georgia… melanism is an extremely rare trait,” the biologist said.
Brent said he saw pictures and confirmed with other biologists that the deer was indeed melanistic.
From other articles and reports, the only other documented account of a melanistic deer east of the Mississippi River happened in Pennsylvania in 2002. This condition in deer is so rare that many seasoned hunters would not be able to recognize a deer with melanism. Al Roberts is extremely proud of his unlikely find.
“I’ve had some really incredible trophies, but this by far surpasses them all,” said Al. “This, without question, is the most prized trophy I’ve ever taken.”