A 17-year-old girl accomplished a one-in-a-lifetime hunt after successfully bagging a rare all-white antelope in Wyoming on October 27. Tristian Olsen of Forestville, New York, was hunting private land in Johnson County when she spotted the albino antelope juxtaposed against the golden hills of Wyoming in autumn.
Accompanied by her father, Gary Olsen, and friend, Ryan Smith, the group traveled to Kaycee, Wyoming, in pursuit of antelope after drawing tags for the 2022 season. Traveling out West to hunt big game has become a tradition for Tristian and her dad for the past few years; however, this year looked different from trips before. Despite arriving with the expectation to see many antelope and confidence in their ability to fill their tags, no one was prepared for the chance to pursue such a rare animal.
Albinism is a recessive genetic defect defined by a lack of pigment resulting in an all-white appearance. These animals tend not to survive long as a consequence of having poor eyesight and conspicuous coloring–making them easy prey. As a result, it is difficult to accurately determine how frequently this condition exists in antelope.
Seventeen-year-old Tristian has played a part in the hunting process for as long as she can remember. She recalls spending time in the woods with her father, helping him with everything she could, from cutting trails to making food plots. "My dad is a very inspirational man to me," she said. "I'd spend hours with him, and it was always me and him." When Tristian is not traveling out West for antelope and mule deer, she spends her time hunting whitetail, turkey, waterfowl, and coyotes, as well as competing alongside her dad in various fishing tournaments in New York.
Tristian and her father put in long days scouting the land in previous years. When they arrived in late October, they eagerly anticipated the hunt. "I feel like I've gained a lot of knowledge the past couple of years going out there, so I definitely have learned how to hunt antelope," Tristian said, "but it's always hard with Wyoming because the land is so vast, and there are always new elements."
Although coming prepared, she was faced with a new set of challenges due to her father's recent medical diagnosis that rendered him unable to accompany her into the field. "It was pretty hard because he was always there with me on hunts, and this year, he couldn't be," Tristian told MeatEater.
On the morning of October 25th, Tristian began her first antelope stalk of the season, and soon after, she spotted the snow-white animal. "It was in a herd of about 20. While this was my first encounter with the albino, I wasn't sure if the landowner wanted me to harvest this animal," Tristian said.
Due to the uncertainty of the situation, she turned her focus to a mature doe in the herd. "I got to roughly 400 yards of that herd, and they ended up spooking due to me having to belly crawl through a wide-open flat for 600 yards." After leaving the field that day, Tristian recalled her feelings towards seeing such a rare antelope.
"I couldn't stop thinking of that white albino that I was just able to get a glimpse of," she reminisced. "So I made sure it was okay to harvest from the landowner. At that point, I knew that was the antelope I wanted, no matter how hard it was."
Wyoming Game and Fish currently has no regulation restricting the harvest of albinistic or leucistic animals in the state, so these white rarities offer hunters a special chance to tag a uniquely beautiful animal.
The next morning rolled around, Tristian eagerly returned to the parcel of land, and she soon spotted the albino. "I was trying to think of any way possible to stalk this animal without making a single mistake," she said.
She explained that the significant challenges she faced that day were the hard winds, lack of draws in the area, and the amount of antelope in that herd. Fortunately, she had assistance from both her father and their friend to devise a game plan for the hunt. However, as any young hunter would be, Tristian was very excited about the opportunity to hunt an albino antelope and reportedly "jumped the gun when it came to this stalk."
The next day Tristian recounted waking up with immense excitement, hoping to see the albino again. Very early that morning, the group began driving around in search of the rare antelope, and soon enough, they spotted it. "You could not miss it," Tristian said.
They then drove to a high vantage point to observe the landscape and plan their route toward the antelope. However, there weren’t enough draws to follow and coverage available to make a stalk toward this herd without being easily spotted. After spending a couple of hours watching the herd through a spotting scope, the group decided to leave and attempt to fill one of their other tags.
After a couple of hours hunting elsewhere, Tristian decided it was time to return to the area the albino was previously spotted. Upon arriving, they saw that the herd had moved to a perfect spot behind a massive cottonwood tree. With her dad on the spotting scope in the truck and their friend on the camera behind her, Tristian began her stalk toward the antelope. She described the landscape, expressing that "the draws were full of tall grass that went up past my waist and kept us very concealed."
At the end of the draw, she could see the cottonwood tree tucked behind a small hill. She began her ascent up the hillside, and as she peaked, she described seeing the massive herd of antelope surrounding the tree. "They were much closer than I thought they would be, and honestly, I did not expect to see them right after I peaked over the hill." She then crawled back down to "contain herself" and allowed Ryan to move back up with her to record the hunt.
Setting up for the shot she had been working towards her entire hunt, Tristan laid prone with her Savage 6.5 Creedmoor rifle sighted in on the antelope, unique amidst the rest of the herd. Just barely peaking over the hill, she patiently waited for the perfect opportunity to take the shot. Locked in on the albino antelope, surrounded by a herd of almost 30, she watched as it slowly moved out of the draw and towards where she lay. Eventually, the albino moved away from the others in the herd.
At this point, Tristian described feeling "incredibly nervous, my adrenaline was pumping." Her nerves were calmed with confidence in herself and the rifle she had comfortably used in many of her previous hunts. With all elements in place, Tristian was able to take a clean shot at the animal from about 250 yards, stopping the antelope in its tracks.
"I always get emotional after I shoot an aminal," Tristian said, "but I was really happy, and the animal was just beautiful, and it was a big respect thing." Upon her first up-close look at the antelope, she discovered that it was a yearling male. "It was astonishing," Tristian said, "the hooves were translucent, and it was just insane; it was fully white."
She was immediately excited to call her dad, who was back in the truck, and let him know that her hunt was successful. "For this antelope, it was heartwarming, but at the same time, it was bittersweet." Her dad, Gary told MeatEater, "for a 17-year-old girl to harvest an animal like that, it's once in a lifetime, no words can express how proud I am."
Images via Tristian Olsen.