Flightless Deer? – 01/28/2022
We have several apple trees and crab apple trees in our back yard. About September, as the apples ripen, the backyard becomes a favorite stop for several of the local deer population. This fall our group of regulars included two large does and three fawns of the year. Usually about sunset, give or take 15 minutes, they would materialize out of the willow brush and make their way to the big apple tree directly out back of our kitchen window. Almost nightly, either my wife Michelle or myself – depending on who was making dinner, would call out to the other, “The deer are in the yard.” Then we would both watch them out the window for their 10 – 15-minute visit.
I didn’t mind when they focused on the windfalls – in fact, I left the windfalls lay there for them. But about the end of September or first part of October when I was debating when I would pick the apples the deer would start rearing up on their hind legs so they could reach the apples that were hanging in the tree. Part of me was intrigued with watching them knocking down apples that were six and even seven feet high, and part of me was thinking about the fact that they were cutting into this year’s apple sauce supply. Well, if needed, we could supplement our harvest with apples purchased from a local orchard, so I let them have their fill.
Interestingly, this nightly event stopped quite suddenly on the Thursday before deer gun season. The deer didn’t come that evening and we had not seen a deer in the yard since. It was if they completely disappeared, even though I knew that was not the case.
When we had our first snowfalls in December the deer tracks across the yard proved the reality that the deer were still around, but they had obviously gone nocturnal. Tracks still accumulated most every night and told their stories of deer passing through, but unseen.
One recent night I woke up in the middle of the night with a dry throat, so I headed out to the kitchen to get a drink of water. Having lived here now 31 years I know my way, so I didn’t bother turning on any lights. Also, we have a glass door going out the kitchen to the patio and it was a nearly-full moon, so there was plenty of “seeing light” reflected off of the snow. As I passed the patio door I glanced out and saw a big doe ten feet away under one of the bird feeders.
In the moonlight she was perfectly visible, the white stripe over her nose and the white of her belly and inner leg fur was clearly visible. I could see the steam of her breath jetting out her nostrils. Maybe she caught some of my movement because her head jerked to attention and she focused her eyes and ears right at me. The darkness and perhaps some moonlight glare on the patio door glass hid me well enough that the doe soon went back to licking what birdseed she could get from the bird feeder. It’s a good thing that these birdseed-eating deer don’t become what they eat or perhaps they would be able to fly about the yard at night. I got my drink and returned to the patio door in less than a minute. The doe had vanished. I expect she walked away, but perhaps . . .