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Data pix.

Wildlife lovers near Prairie City have had watchful eyes on some very unique animals, this fall.  But what they've found in a field south of Colfax, is something no one wanted to see.

At more than 450,000 heads state-wide, there might be more deer now than ever.

But white ones are something special.

“Yeah, we’ve been watching the white deer for about five or six years, now," said Vance Van Houweling, a resident of rural Jasper County.

“It’s kind of a majestic thing to see—the white deer," said John Foster of Jasper County, "it’s just neat.”

Full or partial-albino deer are extremely rare, but somehow, this area had several.

There was one in particular the community watched his rack reach ten points this fall.

“The kids would come running in the house and talk about seeing him on the way home,” Foster smiled.

“Everybody enjoyed it—the whole town knew about it,” Van Houweling said.

Watching the albino deer from afar had been a favorite activity, but no one had really every seen one up close—that is, until last weekend.

Hunters working a fence line suddenly stumbled across it.  It’s since been partially eaten by coyotes and someone has sawed off the antlers, but there’s no doubt, this is one of those big males, and even for hunters, it was a shocking sight.

“I felt pretty disgusted, " Van Houweling said, "you watch something like that and everybody says it’s going to be neat to see what he turns out to be, next year, and then you come to find out that somebody poached him and they just cut the horns off.”

The kill is poaching. In 1987, Iowa made it illegal to kill white deer.

“In Iowa, the wildlife are owned by the people of the state," said Willie Suchy of the Iowa DNR, "so when somebody poaches an animal, it’s taking out of our collective resources.”

Its investigation just underway, the DNR got a call from Douglas Vanderbeek of Prairie City.  He had shot the deer but hadn’t taken the antlers.

“He was hunting deer, it was a deer," explained the DNR's Kevin Baskins, "he just did not realize at the time that because of the coloration of this particular deer that it was illegal to take.”

The DNR applauded him for his honesty, but still fined Vanderbeek for his mistake - $127.50.  A cost that seems lighter on the wallet than on the community no longer able to see something like this.

Douglas Vanderbeek could not be reached for an on-camera interview. But he did call the Channel 13 newsroom before the story aired.

He claims he didn't know the deer was white when he shot it and didn't know that white deer were protected in Iowa.

Odds of a true albino deer are about one in 100,000.


  • Justice

    I don’t care if it is white or brown, it is still going to do damage to my car when it runs across the highway. Why are the white ones protected? Just because they are more rare should not protect them. Soon we will have more white deer and then what? I remember when the whole deer population was protected by mostly ‘buck only’ licenses. Fewer people got the ‘only sex’ license. Now the deer population has exploded. Is this what we want for the ‘white deer’?

    • Andy Fales

      The white deer are protected because the people wanted them protected and Gov. Branstad it into law. By your argument, all deer should be exterminated to cut down on collisions with cars? That seems extreme.

      • Clayton Will

        The all white or mixed brown and white Piebald deer without pink eyes is a product of inbreeding and that’s why there are several at Prarie City or in a given area. The law should be the same for all deer instead of a specific color. To make someone a law breaker because a deer is a quarter or half white is wrong.
        Many states have a lot of Piebald’s and the law for hunting applies to all deer. The State of Iowa over reacted back when it was signed into law because some one shot an all white deer and the media ran with it. Wait until there’s a lot more of them and you’ll see a lot more sportsmen paying fines for a law that shouldn’t be.
        This is the kind of thing bleeding hearts love to drive wedges into the Wildlife laws and make it more difficult for sportsmen.
        A deer is a deer. Period

    • Skyler

      I’ve hit a deer before not fun but it happens. It’s just like if you run over a coon or possum. Animals have to travel to survive. When you say “Just because they are more rare should not protect them” is a ridiculous thing to say. You protect something of very few because you never know when it will be the last one. Albino/piebald deer are genetic mutation, there wont be an abundance of them running around. I’m from southeast Iowa and I would like to know where this population has exploded? If you haven’t noticed deer numbers have been down a lot compared to five years ago. So instead of being selfish and worrying about a vehicle-that can be replaced- maybe you should appreciate the things around you. Not every many do that anymore

    • LouAnn Larson

      I have hit a deer and so has my husband but neither of us would break the law and kill a rare white deer. I do not believe that the man didn’t know what color it was and not sure he didn’t take the rack. If he didn’t then the person that did take it needs fined. And before you even say anything about me being an animal rights activist, I am not. I do like nature and taking pictures but the males and some females go deer hunting and I eat deer. Lastly the fine was not enough!

  • Cindy

    If he didn’t realize that is was illegal, why did he just leave it there? Most hunters would have taken it for the meat.

    • reno faoro

      Good one there Cindy! I was thinking that too. Why would someone kill a deer, if they weren’t planning to eat it. He knew he was guilty and just shoot and ran from it. He should have been charged with the price of cleaning up the mess also.

    • Justice

      If you knew anything about deer hunting, you would realize that you can hit a deer and they can keep walking for days and you cannot track them without snow, before they drop. Check in to your facts before commenting. Deer hunters are not cold blooded killers like you obviously think.

  • Net

    Douglas Vanderbeek should have been fined for poaching. If hes going to hunt he should know then laws. Sham on the DNR for fining him so lite.

  • Jay

    I understand not realizing it is protected but shooting a deer and leaving lay just is not right. It should be against any hunters morals. Come on this should not have happened but if he didnt know the color then he should not have shot. Obviously not a cleae shot if you can’t see the color. It is morally wrong to leave good meat as well as against the law left to rot. Maybe dnr should revoke license for some time

  • Sdouglas

    Why did he leave it if he didn’t know it was illegal, why is he shooting at deer if he can’t see well enough to know it is an albino. This gives deer hunters a bad image.

  • Ryan

    This is unfortunate the news station was inadequate in maintaining a neutral state, while also inserting their opinion on the “lightness” of the fine. It is interesting that there is no mention of the fact that the DNR cut the antlers off themselves and they are the ones that left the deer in place. In response to those thinking “if you don’t know the rules, you shouldn’t hunt” – I would like those people to post all the Iowa laws around driving…or please turn in your car keys.

    • Andy Fales

      The DNR issued a lighter fine because Vanderbeek cooperated and because they felt he showed a good deal of remorse for his crime. Vanderbeek was given the chance to speak on camera and he declined–repeatedly. The story mentioned that Vanderbeek said he did not take the antlers. He did leave the deer, right or wrong.

      • Jon

        That would have been nice to include the first sentence of your response in the story. Unfortunately, you painted the picture of a tried and true poacher and then dropped Douglas Vanderbeek’s name into that category. Sounds like a one-sided story if you didn’t get Douglas Vanderbeek’s side, regardless if you tried or not.

  • Huh huh

    You do realize he turned himself in. Blame the DNR for not a bigger fine if you want but just like they have told many people its a terrible law. This story is very one sided and like someone mentioned earlier WHO and the dnr failed to mention they took the antlers. It’s a bad deal all around. I’ve hunted for almost 15 years and had no clue it was illegal to shoot white deer…guess I’m a terrible person too.

  • Scott Kain

    Very bad reporting. WHO TV reporter and producer did a pathetic job confirming this story or stating facts. This was not an albino deer. Did not verify any comments made by ignorant Van Houweling. The definition of ignorant is lacking knowledge. Reporter, producer and Van Houweling were all ignorant on the facts on this story. To go forward with this story with the lack of knowledge they had was irresponsible at best and possibly libel. If they had actually investigated they would not use term albino and also might actually look up the definition of poaching. Also (thanks Willy) nice to know the people of the State of the Iowa own the deer. Next time I hit one of those deer with my vehicle glad to know the people of the State of Iowa will pony up for my repairs. Definitely mistakes were made here but mostly by ignorant individual running their mouth looking for publicity and a reporter and producer wanting to sensationalize a story versus reporting facts. If I was Vander Beek I would definitely file a lawsuit against reporter, producer and Van Houweling. I’m considering it just based on ridiculous statements attributed to community by Van Houweling and obviously not corroborated by so called reporter.

      • Josh

        Because the facts you are asking for have already been given in Ryan’s previous comment about who cut the antlers and left the deer. Once again, someone who just reads what they want to read and makes quick accusations but forgets to look at all the information that has been presented by others. Bottom line, all sides of the story were NOT explored before this article was written therefore making it unethical and misleading.

      • Scott

        Fact: Deer was not albino. This was stated in my comment. Also look up definition of poaching. Reporter could have and should have determined who took the antlers from the deer and why. Fact: Antlers were not cut off by person who shot the deer. Van Houweling made several statements about the opinions of the whole community which are not correct. Not everyone agrees and reporter obviously did not provide any counter opinions. Fact: This story accomplished nothing but dragging someone down who tried to do the right thing after making a mistake.

  • Margot Udelhoven former VanHouweling

    I think they did a good job at informing the uneducated that it is illegal in the state of Iowa as many obviously don’t know. I would like to say the statements we’re made BEFORE knowing who did it. Either way it is heart breaking that the ghost buck is not roaming the neighborhood anymore amd we don’t get to watch it grow. I just wish his body could be saved and mounted because he is a family legend. So hurtful words or not my neighboor hood is going to be angry, mad, sad but it is nice to know that he wasn’t killed by someone heartless that wasn’t meaning to kill him. At the end everyone learned a lesson and I hope more people learn the hunting laws before they decide to walk around and shoot things

  • rob

    Andy someone fed you incorrect info on the most deer ever in the state comment. We have been ravaged by drought related disease in the deer herd for 2 years.the IDNR has said so In there press releases lately. Ask any deer hunter next time you will get a real answer

  • Margot Udelhoven former VanHouweling

    And the lawsuit would be filed towards Udelhoven, not Vanhouweling, who thought it would be nice for the public to know that in the State of Iowa it is law that you cannot kill a deer that is mostly white. So facts would be nice before things are stated huh. I learned this law in Hunters Safety.

  • Sdouglas

    It still hasn’t been answered as to why he shot it and left it there. The DNR left it after they knew about it or were told. Did he call them immediately after he shot it? If not then he should have also been ticketed with waste. I am also not buying that he couldn’t tell it was white when he shot it. If he cannot see or tell what he is shooting at maybe he shouldn’t be shooting or even hunting. This just makes hunters look bad by furthering the “if it has hooves and looks like a deer we kill it” attitude. The fact that it is white is kinda beside the point of the other sketchy details surrounding the story.

  • IowaWhitetail

    A true Albino whitetail will have pink eyes, light colored hooves and a 100% white coloration to their coat. Approx. 1 in 100,000 whitetails are that of an Albino. More times than not, Piebald whitetails which are not near as rare, are confused for an Albino. Piebald whitetails will not carry all of the described characteristics. Without actually examining the animal up close it would be impossible to determine which phase this specific deer is of.

    In the state of Iowa, any deer with a greater than 50% of it coat being white may not be killed. Most of the states that allow hunting of whitetails do not protect these animals(albino). The fact of the matter is these animals carry flawed genes and are more prone to carry diseases.

    It is understood that a true Albino or Piebald deer of any species is a majestic looking creature. At the end of the day, protecting these animals could lead to diseases not contained to whitetails or even wild animals. After all, whitetails and cattle tend to graze in the same fields. Thus the reason the State Vet issues a “shoot on sight” order to all DNR County Officers if an Elk is spotted in the state. For the very same reason, Elk are known to carry TB and could easily pass this on to your 1/4 pounder with cheese.

    As to the deer population, the current estimation is that we are back to where we were in the late 70’s. Back then every entity that had anything to with the DNR put their heart and soul into raising a deer heard that was healthy. Thus giving us a state known for large racks and fertile does to pass on those amazing genes.

    Today we must thank the all mighty Farm B. for their unhealthy work in decimating the heard we worked so hard to create. Farm B. has worked their way into Brandstead’s pocketbook. Population control was once needed. Those days have come and gone but now it’s politicalized. Thus corrupting the natural resource that a lot of Iowan’s enjoy in many aspects.

    Personally, I would encourage you to think about facts before spouting out that we have too many deer. The number’s don’t lie…we may never recover from where we currently are regarding the deer numbers.

    Sure, you have a nice car….but it will one day sit in a junk yard collecting rust. Until your car carries a heartbeat or is enjoyed by more than just you, keep this in mind. A car is a car, they make more of them. A deer is a deer and it’s up to us how long they stay around.

    As to the hunter in this situation, he broke the law. But I give the man credit for standing up and eventually doing what is right. More can be said of him then a couple of bank robbers who have made headlines in the metro this week. It’s not my job to apply consequences to those that break any laws so I won’t speculate on his.

  • .......


    Go ahead and go tell Vander Beek it’s just a little fine. His name will be tied to “poaching” for a long time. Funny you are family with the people that brought this to the news and you are saying “get over it.”

    Makes sense.

    • Margot Udelhoven former VanHouweing

      My family Clearly wasn’t the only one who was told by DNR for DAYS after he was found that he has been poached and they didn’t know who did it. They also told us he had been shot and his antlers were cut off. Who knows what the truth is but my family also was interviewed BEFORE the shooters name was released. We got our facts STRAIGHT from the DNR. so go on…

  • Taylor Sickles

    Albino only screw up genetics and the DNR will tell you that? Clearly he did everything right. This article is a complete joke. He turned himself into the DNR, most people wouldve left it lay and nobody would’ve known it was him. But he respected the animal, respected hunting and did the right thing. His name being tied to “poaching” is extremely unfortunate!

    • Someone Explain

      hahahahaha he did the right thing by leaving a rare Albino buck there to get ate?!?

      that’s just nuts.
      I would love for you to tell me how he respected the animal and how he did the right thing.

      The word poaching is being used because that is what he did.

  • Know your facts

    I am stunned that WHO TV was given more clear and accurate information regarding this story BEFORE it aired and they still ran with it. Even after airing they have been told of their errors and still have not changed the title, story or cleared up questions. Sad that an Iowa news source could be tied to such shotty coverage and unethical practices.

    Margot, to my understanding you probably guilty of starting and continuing to spread this said “drama” right along with WHO-TV. Do the right thing and help clear this up and next time know the facts before you assume and run with it. It is a sad deal that this happened, it was an honest mistake and now you(and WHO-TV) all have taken it to another level because of ignorance.

    Honest man, honest mistake, honest confession/apology, he’s a good guy and anyone spouting their two cents needs to think of their own honest mistakes and be thankful that you have been forgiven and respected.

  • Huh huh

    Holly it is sad and no one feels worse than Vander Beek. If he is a liar and knew it was a white deer why did he not take the antlers or the deer. He has been hunting for 20+ years 100% legal and just all of a sudden he said I’m going to illegally shoot a deer during shot gun season while hunting with a group just for fun. It’s a bad deal all around but easy with the liar B.S. you don’t know everything that happened by any means.

  • Know your facts

    No need to worry about being caught when you tell the truth.

    Holly, Do you know him personally? He is far from a liar. Do you know the conditions of the day he was hunting?

    I am pretty sure I have seen numerous people shoot young bucks or does just to get a deer. Is that subject to a fine? Have some of them probably made a split second decision before realizing they just shot a young deer, I am sure.

    I would also suggest you check the definition of poaching.

  • ....

    This sucks for Doug. He tries to do the right thing after an honest mistake and he still gets lit up for it. What does that say to our youth? If you make a mistake you should cover it up and lie?? If he would have been dishonest, the consequences would have been way less. He decided to be a man and do what was right. He would never intentionally do this. If you werent there, you cannot speculate on why he shot. Did it blend in with snow on the ground? Was it covered by brush? It pains me to see the media and ignorant passersby try to ruin the repuation of an honest man doing the right thing

  • Huh huh

    So basically the DNR knew exactly who did it…told tippers it was poached and they didn’t know who did it…therefore letting this thing spiral out of control. Sounds about par for the course with the DNR.

  • clusthoff

    I’m still puzzled why he didn’t harvest the animal while hunting.

    Bottom line, NO EXCUSE for not knowing the laws. Before anyone goes hunting or fishing you’re obligated to be aware of the rules and regulations set by each state. I can’t believe the punishment was so light, the whole thing sounds fishy.

    I’m sad to hear/read about the action of this fellow hunter, hopefully he’ll consider hanging up the sport. We don’t need this type of hunter, there’s enough poachers out there to help decrease the deer population.

    Very Sad!

  • Casey

    First off a white deer is a unique thing to see. But just because they are white and unique doesn’t mean they should be protected. I could see having a small herd at a zoo or something like that. What I am getting at is a white deer just won’t do well in Iowa. It comes down to what habitat is around a majority of the year. There is a reason that most of the deer are brown. They blend in with their surroundings. I guess a white deer is just a misfit in nature, especially in Iowa. No need to get on the guys case.

  • JJ

    What still gets me is why weren’t all the facts shared by the DNR in the first place? They knew the facts. Why couldn’t they explain that this type of deer’s meat may carry disease and reason why the meat wasn’t harvested? Why couldn’t DNR share they cut off the antlers? Why didn’t the DNR do right and harvest the hide/head/antlers so someone could mount the beautiful creature for all to view on display somewhere? Sounds like this story needs a follow up so the updated facts can be shared in regards to all aspects of this story. I think DNR could have done more to honor this gorgeous deer and could have shared more information to make this story more clear and not get out of hand.

  • Concerned

    Definition of poaching
    v. poached, poach·ing, poach·es
    1. To trespass on another’s property in order to take fish or game.
    2. To take fish or game in a forbidden area.
    3. To become muddy or broken up from being trampled. Used of land.
    4. To sink into soft earth when walking.
    a. To take or appropriate something unfairly or illegally.
    b. Sports To play a ball out of turn or in another’s territory, as in doubles tennis.

    The definition is right there! TO TAKE OR APPROPIATE SOMETHING UNFAIRLY OR ILLEGALLY. Therefore this would be poaching like it or not!

    I have no doubt it was done unintentional BUT it was done and it was illegal. A pity fine was all that was done is the true disgrace here when a man was caught poaching in Centerville Iowa in August and he was slapped with o ticket over $20,000 and his hunting privledges were revoked.

    • kfbvfgla

      To take or appropriate something unfairly or illegally
      Definition of illegally- in an illegal manner
      I feel as though “manner” is a key word here as must have the DNR. Could the other hunter you mentioned been acting in a different manner?

  • Someone Explain

    I’ll go ahead and assume that Doug has been hunting for a while and he claims it was a “mistake” shooting the albino deer. I DO NOT understand how someone can “accidently” shoot a white deer, just leave it lay there, claim it’s not poaching and then have people stick up for him saying he did the right thing. If one of you could explain to me how he did this is the right thing to do i would appreciate it.

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