Alabama hunter Chad Wolbach wasn’t expecting a surprise last Friday when he settled in for a morning bow hunt, but he darn sure got one.
By Alan Clemons, Southern Managing Editor
Wolbach arrowed a wild fallow deer, one of a handful believed to be living in a few parts of west-central Alabama. How the fallow deer got there, no one is completely certain. Some are believed to have been released or escaped decades ago from fenced enclosures. Others believe they may have been brought in and released, decades ago, by well-meaning hunters.
According to the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, “the first documented attempt to establish a wild population of fallow deer in Alabama occurred in 1925 in the William B. Bankhead National Forest in Winston and Lawrence Counties. The last report of a wild fallow deer in that area was 1930. A wild population was established in the Miller’s Ferry area in Wilcox County. During 1931 or 1932, 15 to 20 fallow deer escaped from a captive herd in Miller’s Ferry. This population was estimated at 200 to 300 animals in 1962 and fallow deer could be found in portions of Wilcox, Dallas, and Marengo counties. As the white-tailed deer population increased in these areas of Alabama, the fallow deer numbers declined. Today, probably fewer than 40 wild fallow deer still exist in the area near Miller’s Ferry. Numerous captive fallow deer herds are found in Alabama. Some captive animals occasionally escape and are seen in the wild.”
Wolbach’s big fallow buck definitely caused him to take a second hard look Friday morning.
“The best part of the story, is the unknown, and something we may never know … where did it come from, are there others, etc.?” Wolbach wrote via email.
He was hunting near Greensboro, which is south of Tuscaloosa, with his Hoyt AlphaMax 35 bow and Gold Tip Pro Hunter arrows tipped with G5 T3 expandable broadheads. Wolbach said he was listening to a morning radio show on his phone via earbuds and enjoying being out when he saw the fallow buck.
Wolbach made the shot at about 15 yards and the deer ran about 40 yards. Here’s his story in his own words:
“Honestly, I was not really planning on doing any seriou” hunting that morning. I went down to our hunting club to spend the day hanging a few more stands, and to do a little more scouting. The night before, I decided to go down early and climb a tree where I had seen some recent trails a few weeks before.
I got in my climber and got settled in about 20 minutes before light. When it gos light enough to see, I looked around for a few minutes and just took in that feeling of getting back in the woods for the first time every season. Usually, at first light, I am pretty obsessive about ranging different locations over and over again. I usually pick different spots to remember 360 degrees around me, and mark spots everywhere from 15 to 50 yards so I have a quick reference if I get a shot opportunity but no time to range it.
“Not expecting to stay in the stand long, and focusing more on checking emails on my phone, I only ranged two spots (25 and 35 yards, directly in front of me). After watching a few squirrels, I put my earphones in and listened to Rick & Bubba while I was checking emails. At about 7:15, I saw a buck walking out of some hardwoods directly in front of me. The shadows were still on him, but I could make out that he had broken off part of his rack on the right side.
“As he turned towards me, I noticed that this was not your typical whitetail rack, (and) then I noticed his cream/white color with white spots. He is about 40 yards coming straight for me. Somehow, without him catching me, in one motion I put my phone in my pocket, stood up, grabbed my bow and drew. At full draw, I was not focusing on my shot, but on the deer and trying to figure out what I was looking at. As he got closer, all of the excitement and questions were competing for room in my mind.
“It all happened very fast, but I remember two thoughts that went through my head: (1) What the hell is that! and (2) my alarm must be about to go off because I know this is a dream. At full draw, he passed my 35-yard mark, then the 25-yard mark, then 15 yards and turned broadside and put his head down to grab a little breakfast. This entire time, I was not focusing on a shot or running through a shot checklist, but focusing on the deer and trying to identify him. At that time, all the excitement and questions in my head went silent, I had tunnel vision on the pin, and I let it fly.
“He ran about 40 yards before he crashed. The silence ended and I was jumping up and down in my climber (thank God for safety harnesses.) At this time I had never considered him being a fallow stag, only because I have never heard of any fallows anywhere near us. I thought that it was some weird albino hybrid with a crazy rack.
“It wasnt until I had my hands on him, and had a few others look at him to confirm that it was a fallow stag. It is really difficult to describe the feeling that I had, and still have, but you can use your imagination. I am very thankful, and blessed to have the opportunity to take such a uniuqe buck. I know that I am not worthy of it, but I will cherish that experience for the rest of my life.”