When Dan Hartley of Janesville, Wisconsin headed out on the first day of deer season, he hoped to meet a fine buck.
He got his wish—and even captured it on video—but it wasn’t as he had imagined.
On the morning of Sunday, Nov. 18, the 60-year-old Hartley headed out on some privately owned land accompanied by his son-in-law and another hunter.
With 40 years of hunting experience, Hartley knew how to pick a prime spot. He settled in at the base of an old tree with a good view down a small valley with some thick foliage where Hartley knew deer would be likely to sleep.
Hartley, clad in a bright orange coat and hat and camouflaged rain paints, set up on a foam cushion with his back against the tree trunk and his 25.06 rifle in easy reach.
The seasoned-hunter said experience had taught him another lesson. “No two seasons are the same,” he told the Reno Gazette-Journal. “I look forward to every one, no matter what it brings.”
The limits of that lesson were about to be tested.
Hartley noticed movement from the thicket at the base of the valley at around 7.a.m. Seconds after first seeing the bushes shake, he saw an eight-point buck emerge only 20 yards away from where he was sitting.
After 40 seasons of hunting, Hartley could afford to be picky. An eight-point buck was okay, but he wanted a more mature deer with a more impressive rack.
Hartley snapped his rifle’s safety in an attempt to startle the buck and scare it away. The buck twitched, but didn’t bolt. Instead, it began walking directly towards the tree where the hunter was sitting.
“I thought it was just going to walk past me and keep going,” Hartley said, according to Fox news. “Then I heard him smelling me from behind.”
After sniffing around, the deer poked Hartley in the back with its nose.
“I thought, ‘Hey, what’s going on here?'” Hartley said. “Then he came around the front of the tree and put his head down toward my feet.”
While Hartley watched, amazed, the buck began rubbing its antlers on his boots and legs.
This is normal behavior for bucks—they normally rub their antlers on trees. According to a search performed by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, there has never been a recorded instance of a buck cleaning its antlers on a hunter.
Hartley understood what a rarity he was experiencing. “I thought ‘No one is going to believe this if I don’t get this on film’,” he told Fox.
Hartley had to push the deer away to get his phone out. Even though he pushed its head away, the deer kept coming back, nuzzling his legs, rubbing its antlers on his boots, and pulling at his clothing with its antlers. It tore up Hartley’s rain pants but caused no physical harm.
The deer tried to use Dan Hartley’s boots to scrape clean its antlers. (Screenshot, Reno Gazette-Journal)
Hartley said he looked for a tag or some marking indicating that the deer had been domesticated, but as far as he could see it was just an ordinary wild white-tail deer.
“I don’t know if it had been fed by someone when it was younger,” said according to the Reno Gazette-Journal. “It seemed comfortable around me.”
The deer continued for about 15 minutes before walking away.
Hartley bagged a doe later in the day—and the buck survived its early-morning encounter with a hunter completely unscathed.
“I guess you could say it was his lucky and my lucky day, too,” he told Fox.
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