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Submitted / The Outlook Braden Jones, left, poses with Jim Hardy after shooting a rare piebald deer on Saturday evening, the first day of Alabama's youth hunting season.

For more than five years, Braden Jones has been hunting with Outdoor Friends Forever at Hardy Farms in Coosa County and for the past two years, Jones has been eying a particular buck. 

Hunting with OFF owner Jim Hardy, Jones saw a piebald deer about two years ago but it was when it was just a spike buck. Jones wanted to wait until it got a bigger rack on it but someone else bagged the deer first.

Then Hardy saw another piebald a few weeks ago and knew he wanted Jones to finally get the rare deer.

“We had been scouting the area a little bit and found this really unique deer,” Hardy said. “With (Jones) being such a unique kid, I just wanted him to get it. They go together. We were able to get very fortunate to be able to see these two bucks that came out together and he wanted to shoot this rare one, so he got it.”

A piebald deer is identifiable by large white patches, which occurs due to genetic variations. According to Quality Deer Management Association’s website, piebaldism is found in less than 2% of the whitetail deer population.

After Hardy saw the seven-point buck a few weeks ago, he started to track it. According to Jones, Hardy saw the buck every few days on his trail cam but then the week before the youth hunting season began last weekend, the buck started coming in every other day. Jones said because of the buck’s feeding pattern, he had a pretty good feeling he would see the piebald Saturday afternoon.

Sure enough, about 4 p.m. that day, a pair of bucks came out into the field where Jones and Hardy were hunting. Jones said one went straight to a feeder but he got a few minutes to track the piebald as it started eating slowly in the middle of the field. Eventually, it went down to the feeder and that’s when Jones took his shot.

“It was pretty exciting; I stood up in the chair,” Jones said. “It was cool seeing him in the field, knowing that we could get a good shot on him and he wasn’t that far and knowing that those kind of deer are so rare to find even but even more to kill.”

Jones, who is now 14 and lives in Clay County, has been hunting at OFF since he was in fourth grade. He said he got all As on his progress report, so his mom wanted to surprise him with a hunting trip to OFF, which helps people with special needs do outdoor activities like hunting and fishing. Jones was born with hypophosphatemic rickets syndrome, which he said basically takes calcium away from his bones and makes his bones very brittle.

A longtime hunting and fishing enthusiast, Jones said his introduction to Hardy and OFF has been a life changer.

“OFF is one of the greatest places you can go to hunt and fish and really just hang out and have a good time,” Jones said. “Seeing other kids get to experience what they want to do and their dreams of getting outside and doing what they want to do is so great.” 

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc.