(Photo courtesy of Jerry Kinnaman)

Jerry Kinnaman was up early, hunting in southeast Missouri, when he saw it. It had been a chilly night — the ground was crunchy — but on Tuesday morning, Kinnaman spotted the albino buck about 85 yards in the distance.

Kinnaman bagged the buck — which was called “arguably Cape Girardeau’s most notorious deer” by the Southeast Missourian. It was a legal kill, but a controversial one.

“This is a buck of a lifetime,” he told the newspaper.

“Not my biggest buck but at 7 1/2 years old he might be the oldest,” Kinnaman wrote on Facebook. “Let the bashing begin!”

And it did. Kinnaman said in an interview with The Washington Post on Thursday that it has gotten so bad, he has received death threats over the deer.

“People are all tough on the computer,” he said, “but it’s easy for them to say that because they know they’re not going to get in trouble for it.”

The deer was something of a celebrity in Cape Girardeau. Kinnaman said that some locals felt a connection to it and would notice the animal on drives through the city.

“I was the same way as anybody else about this deer, so I understand the relationship some of these people have,” he said.

Here’s the thing, though: The deer wasn’t doing well, Kinnaman said. He said there was “not an ounce of fat on him,” and Kinnaman’s taxidermist noted that the deer’s teeth were in poor condition. The animal would have died this year, Kinnaman said, whether he harvested it or not.

“They never even thought about how hard it would be for this deer to survive once he got to a certain age,” he said.

For what it’s worth, Kinnaman contacted a local conservation department office and was told that he hadn’t broken any regulations. After his taxidermist is finished, Kinnaman said he might donate the mount to a local nature center, so Cape Girardeau residents can continue to see the deer.

“There’s a lot of rumors I shot this deer for a reward,” he said. “I’m, like, ‘no.’ ”

The kill — and subsequent backlash — follows a similar incident in Michigan, in which an 11-year-old boy bagged an albino buck. Gavin Dingman was crossbow hunting with his father, Mick Dingman, when he shot the deer in October.

“I’ve had people tell me, ‘You should have taken the shot. You don’t let an 11-year-old take a shot at a deer like that,’ ” Mick Dingman told the Daily Press & Argus. “To me, in my opinion, it doesn’t matter if it’s a spike or a doe or a trophy deer. If you have confidence in them, it shouldn’t matter what they are shooting at.”