FEEDING THE DEER—LATER YEARS
Years later, when I bought a home in the same area, I decided to try feeding the deer again. If you want to feed deer, it’s important to choose the location and runway that will bring you a few deer. By the time my Dad had been feeding deer for a few winters, he had 40 or 50 coming in, and he nearly went broke buying deer chow. Once you start, the deer become dependent, and you can’t stop. I didn’t want to be responsible for a herd.
On the west side of the house, there was a small, obviously secondary runway used by a few deer who followed the fence line. There happened to be one huge cedar, trimmed at the 7– or 8-foot mark. I took it down, and let the few deer that used that runway partake of the branches they hadn’t been able to reach. I also left small deposits of deer chow in the snow nearby. That tree lasted about a week. Before it was finished, I cut some of the remaining branches. My visiting daughter and grandsons dragged those branches up the hill on the west side, across the back, and down into the yard on the east side of the house. This was necessary, because all the big windows were on that side. They left bits of cedar all along the way, and then we stuck apples onto the branches and put out deer chow. Within two days, the deer created a new runway, following the cedar trail, and came into the yard every morning and most afternoons. We had two, then four, then six.
One deer is as distinguishable from another as beagles are, or Clydesdales,--by appearance and by personality. We had the Red Doe, Fuzzy Face, Little Guy, the Big Doe and the Crazy One. Physical characteristics, beyond size, included variations in colour, white around the eyes, black tails, distinctive black stripe on the chest, and one funny little fellow whose hair just stuck out all over, all the time—he looked like he needed a good combing, regardless of the grooming efforts of two of the does.
We saw the deer grooming each other, punching each other, sharing a pile of chow and nosing each other out of the way. The Red Doe occasionally bedded down at the edge of the yard, between the grapevine and the woods. The Red Doe and Fuzzy Face have returned four years running, and are quite accustomed to looking in the windows as if to hurry us along. They have come to associate the sound of the jeep coming up the road with being fed. If they are within hearing, they will come into the yard when they hear the jeep, even if they were just fed a few hours ago. Fuzzy Face races full-tilt down the hill and into the yard, while the Red Doe is more circumspect.
Deer are curious. One winter day, we were on the roof, shoveling off a dangerous accumulation of heavy snow. It was a long chore, and we talked and laughed while we worked. We looked up and saw three of our “regulars” standing on the hilltop behind the house. The effect was that they were about at the same height as we were, thirty feet away. They watched us all afternoon. Many times, as we drove home, we would look up to the edge of our yard which overlooks the road, and see one or two deer standing there, watching for our return.
We sometimes saw several of our “regulars” crossing the road with other deer. When that happened, they would not show up at their usual time. They would come in two to three hours late, without the other deer. This happened over and over—it was obvious that the regulars were finding a way to lose the others, before returning to their cache.