Outdoors Column: Deer Watching

Whether a person hunts with a bow, a camera, or just likes to observe nature, this is the time of year to be doing it. A person can see more deer activity during the last two weeks of October and the first two weeks of November than all the rest of the year combined. Other animals are also more active than normal as they prepare for winter.

Friday morning, while drinking coffee and staring blankly out the window, my wife and I noticed three bucks coming down the hill on the opposite side of the lake. They walked single file across the dam toward the house. All three were mature bucks, the largest in the front, followed by one slightly smaller who was in turn followed by one with a set of antlers that were a bit smaller still, yet quite impressive if a person did not compare him to the first one. Though bucks act strangely at this time of year, their coming toward the house was quite unusual. The last in line stopped in the middle of the dam and just stood there looking around. When the remaining two got to the near side, the second one stopped while the leader took a right and walked along the edge of the lake. It was only then we saw a doe that had been watching the parade. She blended in with the grass around her, when she stood still, she all but disappeared.

We watched from the comfort of the dining room as the buck chased the doe back and forth across the lawn near the water. The other two bucks watched from a distance, wishing they were doing the chasing but not willing to get into a fight with the bigger buck. Six trumpeter swans were swimming on the calm waters that reflected the colorful autumn leaves. The buck and doe, the stark white of the swans, and the changing leaves would have made a beautiful picture if either of us had thought to grab the camera off the stand and snap a shot. We were too engrossed in the scene playing out before us to think about it until it was too late.

Saturday afternoon was sunny and cool. Deer seemed to be everywhere we looked. When we got back from checking the cameras, we glanced back up the hill we had just come down. A big buck stood motionless, his polished antlers gleaming in the sunlight. He must have been nearby when we passed by and not spooked at all. He seemed to be king of the hill, watching the valley below. Another buck came out of the horse pasture and started up the hill toward the reigning monarch. The new buck had part of one antler broken off. This is usually an indication he had been in one or more serious fights over territory and does. He got within about twenty-five feet of the big buck and stopped. The big buck did not move. The new buck looked around briefly, smelled the air, and took a left turn, and left. He moved away, not wanting to appear to be retreating, but also not wanting to fight. Perhaps they had met before.

With the number of deer around and breeding season being in full swing, a person can see deer just about everywhere. We enjoy watching them in the timber and pastures, but not so much in the roads. Be careful as you drive, or you may get to see a deer or two much closer than you want.