The albino fallow deer on the side of Terrys Avenue in Belgrave. Photo: Lucien Arendse
When Lucien Arendse sees a deer on a hunting trip, it usually follows a period of stalking and evidence of broken branches, eaten plants and grasses, scats and other signs. So when he drove out of his Belgrave driveway at about midday on a Wednesday four weeks ago, his encounter with an albino deer left him mesmerised.
"I was actually taking off from here and I was going down towards Sandells Road, and I saw this bright white animal come out of the bush," he said. "And I'm talking bright white – it looked like it was spray painted – which made me stop smack in the middle of the road.
"I actually thought to myself that is the brightest goat I've ever seen in my life. I stopped the car smack bang in the middle of the road, car running. The deer walked straight out onto the road right in front of me and just looked at me.
"And that's when I got out of the car and picked up my phone, because I couldn't believe it still," he said. "And it just sat there and looked at me. It had some leaves and things in its mouth and it just sat there chewing like a cow would."
Despite Mr Arendse's shock at what he was seeing, his snap decision to stop the car and reach for his camera phone meant he captured three photographs of the rare albino deer as it stood on the side of Terrys Avenue in Belgrave. At the time, the fallow deer was only about 40 metres from his house and not much more than a kilometre from Belgrave's main street.
The deer was apparently not bothered by the presence of Mr Arendse, his vehicle or his camera phone. In fact, it was so unruffled by human company, Mr Arendse got within about 20 metres of the animal.
"And that's the most amazing thing," he said. "Because normally when a deer sees you, it's gone, it is well and truly gone. Normally you just can't get that close to them. They are lightening quick.
"It was smack bang in the middle of the day. If you ask any deer hunter, it's unheard of for them to pop their heads out in the day."
Despite repeated hunting trips to the Eildon area and throughout Gippsland, it was the first time the hunter had ever seen an albino deer.
Mr Arendse said the rare encounter only ended after the deer "just looked at me and then slowly walked off into the bush. It did not run at all, which was the most surprising thing. It didn't feel threatened by me, which was unusual, especially after seeing the car, it being broad daylight and me walking up to it.
''It certainly wasn't sick by any stretch. It was quite healthy and it was chewing some of the bushes on the fringe of the forest."