Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Buck

Never did I see a whitetail buck act that way. Not that I ever saw too many of them over the years — I didn’t, especially not in the woods. Driving up Hatch’s Hill Road as I do several times a week, I got a half-second glimpse of a six-point buck out my passenger-side window. Rather than slow down, I went to the top of the hill and turned around in a driveway to go back and see if he was still there. “This is dumb,” I said to myself while executing the turn. “He’ll be long gone by the time I get back,” but there he was, looking right at me from behind a tree.

He’d climbed a steep bank and hopped a stone wall, but he stuck his velvet-antlered head up and looked at me without a trace of alarm. Still seated in my truck, I took out my camera, unlocked the lens, and took a few shots as he casually turned around and walked deeper into an overgrown field and out of my sight. I pulled to the side of the road and set my brake, got out, and climbed the steep bank after him to try for more pictures. Sure enough, there he was again standing broadside to me and munching on some shoots. I took several more shots.

All the while, I’m thinking: “This is not a game farm. I’m twenty feet away from a healthy, whitetail buck in the wild and he’s not a bit afraid of me.” At that point, he assumed an undignified posture and began urinating while I continued snapping pictures.

When he was finished, he just sauntered away, casually biting off more shoots as he went along, occasionally looking back over his shoulder at me. I continued snapping pictures.

Never once did he raise his tail in alarm to show the white underneath. That’s the part we humans usually see as those aptly named whitetail deer jump away from us. That was usually all I saw when I hunted them; by the time I got my gun up, they were gone. Whitetails were generally safe when I was in the woods but I was always excited to get out there again every year as November approached — until about twenty years ago, that is.

I’m not sure what changed, but the urge to hunt left me. My brother(s) would call and I’d tell them I wasn’t going out. “What?” they’d exclaim. “What’s happening to you?” Maybe it was remembering all the energy I expended hiking up and down hills all day and not even seeing a flag — that’s what we called the white tails we’d see on deer bounding away through the woods away from us. Maybe it was because I’d think of how much wood I could have split and stacked in the woodshed before snow fell instead of spending the entire day in futile pursuit of the elusive whitetail. Maybe it was because my testosterone levels were diminishing and my inner caveman was subduing itself commensurately.

Even after I’d become more prosperous and could afford to burn oil instead of wood, the hunting urge didn’t return. Something basic had changed in me and I haven’t gone deer hunting since. I still shoot squirrels with my .22 and chipmunks with my pellet gun because they’re both troublesome rodents who damage property. I still shoot porcupines and groundhogs. I still trap mice and flying squirrels because they all invade the properties I manage and my own as well. But I don’t hunt deer anymore, and I think the buck I photographed sensed that. He knew somehow that I meant him no harm.

Squirrels, however, know I want to kill them. When I step out of my truck with a rifle they run. They don’t just climb a tree either. They run along the ground into deep woods where they’re safe — and they don’t stop long enough along the way for me to get a bead on them. This year, there are more squirrels than I ever remember and it’s harder to keep the population under control.

Shooting them guarantees they won't return
For that matter, there have been more cones on the white pines — and more needles fell from them this year as well. More seeds fell from ash trees too. Never have I seen so many. Many things go in cycles and I guess I’m no different; I’ve rotated out of my hunter phase. I eat more vegetables because my wife insists, as long as there is a serving of meat with them. I don’t have to kill it though. I’m content to buy it at Shaws or Hannaford. If I couldn’t do that, I’d be sufficiently motivated to resume the hunt.


Raymond Ballesteros said...

(Show Low Yaqui said)

A good introspective statement. We're of the same generation, and I readily identify with many of the same thoughts. We would see several deer and elk on our property in Linden, Az. a few years ago. They would come in during the dry season. One neighbor of the curmudgeon variety griped because they ate his corn. He didn't care the wildlife had been using a small pond on my property for decades. I kept it, and wouldn't dry it up to accommodate his veggies. We now live in a townhouse(apartment on steroids) in Vancouver, Washington, just north of Portland Oregon. But we still have a small group of local deer that come by and remind us it's all connected.

Tom McLaughlin said...

Coincidentally, my 18-year-old grandson just flew out to Vancouver, Washington last week to work with his father in a construction union. He wants to apprentice as a carpenter after six months as a laborer. I've never been to that part of the country, but I'll visit him there after a while.

Reality Check said...

Nice photos! Interesting side note - deer are on of the many, many animals that practice homosexuality. I wonder if all deer are allowed to urinate in the same spots or some spots are reserved for "straight" deer?


Brian said...

What a horrible thought that a creature would urinate in the vicinity of a creature that had different parts! That's just wrong! These "gay" deer are obviously just trying to get attention and should see a psychologist.

Tom McLaughlin said...

Don't you guys have anything else to do?

Reality Check said...

Do you mean other than trying to spread common sense and decency in order to make the world a better place?

CaptDMO said...

Coming home late one night from some event with my new war bride, (from New Jersey)
we saw the 7-8 deer of assorted size in the yard, gracefully milling about, and generally looking cute. (Waaaaay bigger than
we saw the 7-8 deer of assorted size in the y NJ deer)
"Oh look sweetie....they're GORGEOUS!". I said nothing. I'm from here.
When daylight rolled around she discovered they had been noshing on ALL the heads of the (can't remember-20 yeas ago)plants in the flower garden.
"Oh, KILL THEM ALL! They must DIE!, Who do you know that can....?"
And that was before I woke her up one morning to see the 275-300 pound bear outside the window, 6 feet away. turning the bird feeder into modern sculpture.
She's since learned to adapt.