PINE RIVER, Minn. — Effective hunters don't get trophy deer by accident. They plan and train, and that's exactly how 11-year-old Tyler Day of the Pine River-Backus area bagged his first deer — a once-in-a-lifetime piebald doe.
Preparation for this legendary deer included target practice, surveillance and careful deer stand placement. Before the firearms season, Tyler had monitored game cameras to find something worth hunting.
"He and his stepbrother have game cameras out," said Tyler's mother, Kristin. "They do a lot of goose hunting and that sort of thing. There were two 10s, two 8s and what he called the albino. He watched them this fall."
With the cameras, Tyler chose to hunt one of the 10-point bucks that wandered the area, or what he called the "albino" deer.
"He and his grandfather sat out opening weekend," Kristin said. "They didn't have school the following Monday; he sat then. After school they sat and last weekend they sat waiting for either the 10 or the albino. He passed up a fork and spike and a couple does. He was holding out for the spotted one or the 10."
"I just felt like it would be a cool deer to get," Tyler said.
It was two weeks into hunting season before Tyler and his grandfather, Rodney Day, got a chance to see the deer. When it came into view, Tyler was ready.
"Sunday evening, just before dark, about 150 yards out, she came out," Kristin said. "Grandpa said, 'As soon as she stops, take her.' It was a pretty cool first deer."
The deer wasn't really albino, which are protected. Tyler simply wasn't familiar with the term "piebald." His family knew that piebald deer weren't protected, so they allowed him to set his heart on this special deer. His grandfather sat in his stand with him and gave him instructions when the deer finally came into view just before sundown Sunday, Nov. 12.
"Grandpa said he could hardly stand when he shot it he was so excited," Kristin said of Tyler.
The doe wasn't a small one either. Tyler's father, Jason Day, his uncle and a family friend had to help carry it and estimated its weight at around 200 pounds.
Piebald deer are very rare deer in Minnesota. By successfully bagging one, Tyler joins a small list of hunters.
"I would say less than 1 percent of our wild deer population have that gene," said Brainerd Area Assistant Wildlife Manager Nathan Thom with the Department of Natural Resources. "For it to show up is even rarer."
The deer is so rare that Scheels sporting goods store offered to do a full body mount, which can cost as much as $3,000, at no cost to the Days in exchange for allowing Scheels to display it in their Eden Prairie store, set to open in the fall of 2019.
"It's a pretty exciting deal," Kristin said. "People can enjoy it and below it will be a plaque explaining what a piebald is and underneath it will say the date it was shot, who shot it and where with a brief story about it being his first deer."
Tyler is excited that his deer will be mounted, and even though his mother said the store will allow him to have it back at any time, Tyler is willing to let the store hold on to it until he is older.
"I felt really good and happy I am able to get it back, too," Tyler said. "(I will let them keep it) probably until I'm 26 or 27."
As a sixth grader with an incredibly rare deer, Tyler has earned credit among his classmates, local hunters and DNR officials.
"That is super cool," Thom said. "I've never seen one in the wild, ever."