Rarely does a hunting plan come together as perfectly as it did for Robby Stenger on the opening day of New Jersey’s whitetail archery season. While hunting his 3-acre suburban property in Marlboro on October 1, Stenger took down a stunning piebald 10-point buck he’d been watching for four years.
Stenger first encountered “Casper,” as he dubbed the buck, in 2019 when it was a fawn. He was immediately struck by the deer’s distinctive mottled coat. In 2020 he spotted the buck, now a spike, on his cell camera on October 29. Exactly one year later—almost to the hour—it again showed up on Stenger’s cell cam again and had developed into a nice 10-pointer.
Stenger had several years of history with the buck. Robby Stenger
As the season opener approached in 2022, Stenger got several new camera pics showing that Casper was still a 10-pointer but was carrying a much heavier rack. “I figured he was gonna score around 130 or 135 inches, and I was contemplating not shooting him this year,” Stenger says. “Ideally, I could let him go one more year and he’d break 150, maybe even more with the genetics we have around here.”
Stenger Wasn’t the Only One with Eyes on the Big Piebald
When Stenger bought his house in 2018, he quickly realized that he had stumbled upon a suburban deer hunting hotspot. “I get two or three shooters that come through every year,” he says. A big 9-pointer he shot nearby in 2019 landed him a spot in Field & Stream’s Best Bucks of November story that year. “The bucks in this area just have great genetics, and everybody knows it.”
The problem, of course, is that everybody knows it. That became clear to Stenger when he made a stop on opening day at a local orchard. New Jersey allows baiting, and several hunters in the area buy apples and swap tales with this particular orchard keeper.
“He asked me how my season was looking,” Stenger recalls. “I told him I got a couple of shooters on camera, and I was really contemplating this piebald I’ve watched for a few years. He was a spike, but then he blew up to a 10-pointer. Now he’s a shooter, but I’d like to let him go one more year. And he says, ‘I know that deer.’ And I’m like, ‘What do you mean you know him?’”
The deer’s patchy coat is a classic example of piebaldism. Robby Stenger
Three hunters who had already come by for apples were actively hunting the buck, the man told Stenger. They’d shown him photos of the same piebald deer. “That conversation happened at 7:30 a.m. An hour later, I got my first daylight photo of the buck that year,” Stenger says. “I decided on the spot that I was going to shoot him if I could. I got in my stand around 3:30 p.m., and by 4:30 p.m. he was dead. It happened that fast.”
Stenger’s land abuts a 6- or 7-acre woodlot, and from past experience, he knew that a daylight sighting of a buck meant the deer was most likely bedding close by. His strategy was to hunt a stand overlooking a low spot that deer use as a travel corridor. This was nearly foiled by a wrong wind. “It was blowing at my back, which meant the buck might catch my scent if it dropped down into that crease where I expected him to cross. Luckily, he made a big circle and skirted me before coming in, and my scent was rising due to the afternoon thermals,” Stenger says. “He never scented me, and when he gave me a shot at 20 yards, I took it.”
There are more than 125,000 whitetail deer in New Jersey. Robby Stenger
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Stenger estimates the buck scores 130 to 135 inches. He isn’t second-guessing his decision to tag the buck this year rather than waiting for another year. “I just had too much history with this deer,” he says. “I needed to shoot him.”
According to the National Deer Association (NDA), piebaldism is “a rare genetic anomaly” that results in abnormal coloration and sometimes other physical deformities. “Though we don’t fully understand the genetic misfire that produces piebald deer, we know you should consider yourself fortunate if you see one where you hunt,” explains the NDA. “It’s not a population problem to worry about, and you can’t “fix” it by harvesting the deer intentionally, but if you’d be happy taking such a rare deer home with you and it’s legal where you hunt, by all means, enjoy.”
And Senger did. “He’s an extremely rare and beautiful deer, with that piebald pattern and those dark, dark chocolate antlers,” he says. “To see something like that is mind-blowing. It’s probably the prettiest buck I’ve ever seen in my life. And now he’s at the taxidermist, and I’ll remember it forever.”
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