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Thinking Fella's excellent diary about getting close to a deer, and the discussion in the comments, got me thinking about my experiences with deer. I live in the DC area, where deer have thrived recently thanks to the eradication of their natural predators, laws against hunting, and the human creation of vast lush arrays of ideal edge habitat.

I have deer to thank for bringing me into wild places, 10-15 years back, when I made a gradual life decision that I wanted to be closer to nature, despite being stuck in the city. I started leaving the paved trails that ran through the local parks, started following increasingly narrower trails through the stream valleys, and realized that I was following the deer.

When I was younger, deer were always a moment of awestruck wonder, amazing graceful beings that came out of the forest. I didn't see them often, and when I did, I wanted to be closer to them. I particularly remember a moment on Skyline Drive, in Shenandoah National Park, when habituated deer approached us for food. I found the moment amazing, and at the same time knew it was wrong.

For a kid growing up in the suburbs, squirrels are exciting at first, and then they get boring. We had brought 2 cats born on the streets of Jamaica that came with us to Canada and then DC. They were great housecats, but still had a lot of wild in them. They hunted lizards in Jamaica, mice and birds in Canada, and did a pretty impressive (but destructive) wildlife survey of the life around us in the DC suburbs - voles, moles, weasels, mice, snakes, birds, squirrels. They brought back a seagull wing one time.

(Bear with me here - I'm getting there!). I always hated their death prowls, but also admired them. I wish I'd had better naturalist/biologist training as a child because then I could have learned more from our cats. But they did teach me what they knew, and brought me closer to other beings, often as twitching corpses. They had a pretty effective hunt worked out, where the black and white one would do a prominent stalk, and flush the prey towards the well-hidden grey one. I tried to train them out of it by scolding but that didn't go very far, and their natural instincts got them through various life challenges, so it's just as well they didn't learn much from a cossetted kid in the suburbs.

I have an indoor cat now, and wouldn't have it any other way. Outdoor cats are invasive murder machines. But I do have my outdoor cats to thank for showing me how much wilderness there was in the suburbs. I explored the back yard and climbed trees with them, buried the corpses of their prey in our compost pile, and explored the local streams.

As I got better at exploring, I started following deer paths. They're easy to recognize in densely populated urban/suburban areas, and over time I started to learn their logic. Usually the break from a human path is obscured, requires a careful pick through a brush tangle, but then they open up. Over time, I realized that these tangles must be deliberate - a way to lose predators and pursuers.

The contrast between the openness of the established deer trails, and the transition barriers between the human paths and the deer paths was too extreme to be accidental. And when following deer trails, I'd periodically encounter a "blunder", where the path disappeared into dense brush, thorns and bushes. If I pushed through, I'd pick the trail back up 10 feet later.

It took me years to work this out. I walked and ran stream valley trails and started learning patterns. Deer moved between water, browsing areas, and sleeping areas. They usually had 3 established trails, on each side of a stream - one meandering close to the stream-bank, with drop-downs/fordings every 50-150 feet, one in the flat broad span of the stream valley's floodplain, and one that followed the adjacent ridge. There were many crossings/connections between the 3 parallel paths, but they were much fainter, and all the paths were insulated from the human paths (roads and paved trails). The sleeping areas were mostly off the middle trail, in areas of high grass, with multiple exit paths for quick escapes.

I slowly realized that the trails were tools - manipulations of natural resources in order to more efficiently obtain habitat requirements - food, shelter, water, a place to raise young. Trails as tools sounds strange, until you go off-path - the 5-minute amble can become an hour-long bloody sweaty tear through thorns and tangles. Trails get you where you want to be. They get you what you need.

And most interestingly, trails are unconscious tools. They don't need to be planned. In a pristine environment, where nothing's ever walked before, after 10, 100, 1000 passes, there will be clear trails. Not necessarily the absolute optimal routes, but adequate ones. And the more beings that walk a path, the better it gets. It's like having a blade that sharpens itself when you use it. Trails get better when you walk them.

One of these days, someone's going to write a PhD on this, but not me. For those who still doubt, I say, "You've not hiked off-trail enough!". Even the most obedient of hikers, will occasionally find themselves "Garden-Pathed" - accidentally following a path that leads nowhere. Well, next time you do, before turning around and walking back to the "right" path, look around and ask yourself, "Why was it easier for me to get here, than it would have been for me to just randomly go off-trail? What convinced me to leave an established trail for this dead-end?".

Answer: You did. And not just you, but all those hundreds or thousands of similarly-programmed beings before you, that took the same turn, and pushed through the same brush you did to end pointlessly dead-ended. You all made the same choice, that something you wanted was that-aways, and each time one of you walked the garden path, you made it easier for the next one to.

Stop and think how far back those who made that half-way in the wilderness go back? How long does this trail go back? When did beings start walking it? If you're privileged to have a rough estimate of how long human beings have been in this area, stop thinking and sit down.

Be in one place for a long time, long enough at least for the shadows to move. Long enough for the birds and other beings to forget the noise that you brought to this place. Long enough for a spiderweb to settle on you. Long enough to be ignored.

Almost all paths walked by humans had at some point previously been made by other beings. They followed deer wolves bear otter mouse bison buffalo otter moose. They followed beings that are no longer, are extinct, killed at the hand of men and women who walked this path and others before you.

And those beings followed others. Follow the ant, the slug, the wasp. Follow the roots. Follow what grows here, look at the curves before you, and ask what made them. You're sitting in a path that was made long before the paths you're walking. You're in the Path of Water. Part of you is lower then other parts, part of you is closer to some things, than other parts of you are, Part of You is Leaning!

And why that is is because of things that were happening long before you, and anything you know, and anything you have awareness of, ever existed. Think as far back along as water, and then think of how it came together, how its various existences developed. Think about how much you know of what it does when it falls, when it flows, when it rises, when it rains. Think of how water moved everything around you, several thousand times over, and how you're made of the water that moves around you, that most of you is that water, that it came from somewhere and is going somewhere else. Water was where you now stand, and made it be where it is.

Think about where your water comes from, how important it is to you. Think of the longest time you were without water. Think about how you would be if
 the water you needed was that which was closest to you. Think how important that water would be to you. Imagine it was the only water you knew existed, beside rain. Imagine that you had toddler memories of cupping it and drinking for yourself the first time. Imagine that water was as much life for you as a tree on which all you needed grew.

The paths around you, the crossings and connections, are a place of worship. Before we knew/thought that there was some separate powerful entity that we had to abase ourselves before, there was this entity - Water - that fed the life around us, that cut the mountains low, that fed the lush places, that grew the trees, and brought food, that killed with cold and with force sometimes. Water that brought us  everything.

And now think how the deer know water. They never left it. They walk close to it like we build cathedrals. The paths they make to and from water are their greatest danger, the place where others will attack them. They walk nonetheless. And you're following them. Imagine yourself tool-less and hungry, somehow the human world gone, and you alone to walk through this world of nature.

Check the weather first, what will happen in the next day week month? Where's the closest natural shelter? What do you have on you? What do you know of making fire? And if you get through the first night, start thinking about food. You're going to start moving on deer paths, stalking, waiting. You're not going to catch anything the first day. Might as well wait. Find a rock and start sharpening sticks for spears. Making cordage.

You're hungrier than you've ever been but at least you haven't burnt all of your energy chasing things. At least you sat. A fox walked its path at dawn and at dusk, deer moved past you, but at a distance. Birds flitter past. You push back logs and search out grubs.

On the second dawn, you're warmer, because you built a deep nest of leaves and grass. You didn't sleep much more than the cold night before because you noticed what was happening around you. You now appreciate that nests are nice in the night, and that many things move at dawn and at dusk. You set some traps, but they're total crap. You've still not made fire. You're chewing on grasses, and some of them are better than others. You really really like the sun because it's so warm. You absolutely have to eat some flesh and drink some blood soon.

This is why the Native Americans considered the deer to be relatives. They walk all the same paths we do, and bring themselves to us. We live from them, and they live from the water just like we do. The water brings us together. Over the years, we build relationships with certain deer, and certain families. Maybe they trust us, and we them. Maybe we make habitat for them - slash/burn clearings that flourish with grass and saplings for several years. Maybe we kill the clumsy, the outsiders, and stand awed at an unexpected moment with the proud buck or doe that we met previously, maybe often - enough to acknowledge each other.

That's how you get close to the deer. A moment that I still don't quite believe happened was when I spiraled up on a pregnant doe in West Virginia, walking restless at sunrise from a B&B, cold-wet in the dawn, fog like an omen, the deer slow-bright in the greenery, unnoticed until I stopped. Maybe an ear-flick caught me, and we made slow contact, the doe calm and I unmoving, then riding the wave of her attention and moving a slow spiral inward, always turned away, until I sat beside her, four feet away, close enough to smell her breath, her warmth, still comfortable in her night-bed. I watched her chew her cud as the light rose, warmed red and pink, and then at one point, because that was the right time, she rose up, and wandered off, still mellow.

And since then I've flushed 8-point bucks out of swamps, 6 feet eye to eye. I've watched fawns totter and surge past me. I've been challenged and threatened, snorted and pawed at. I've held their skulls, traced the strange beautiful scrawls. Held bones and horns gnawed by others - mice, rats, raccoons, opossum. I've smelled the wet-rot of their bloated corpses. I sat 10 feet up in the forest canopy on a fallen tree and watched 2 bucks wattle/warble in rut against each other, soft and comical but for their fierce strut and menace towards each other.

I've shared the river in flood and mist with deer, calm strong paddlers even in strong currents. I've chased them, sprint-curving stream valleys, meadows, slopes. I've sometimes stood my ground and sometimes surprised them, and sometimes moved soft and slow to respect them. I've gotten ticks from them. I've curled up in their nest places, tracked them through deep snow in leaping flurries, sat with their slow-scattering sun-warm carcasses, followed their scrabble-paths through mud and scree, dense forest and wetland sloughs. I follow their browse - roots and moss pawed out from snowbanks and nibbled, the gouge of fresh horns against saplings, the dense grows of pawpaw because the deer eat everything else, their rich-scattered pellets along paths.

I don't yet know deer because I've not yet spent a day with one. Let alone a year.

Originally posted to erratic on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 09:28 PM PST.

Also republished by Personal Storytellers and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Superb. Deer are astonishing. I used to be taken (17+ / 0-)

    hunting but just watching deer made me lay my rifle down. Listening to them whistle and move ... so at ease and beautiful... I stopped hunting by the time I was 28 because I preferred to watch them and eat an apple instead.

    What a beautiful remembrance.

    Fear is the Mind Killer...

    by boophus on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 09:52:32 PM PST

  •  well done! (11+ / 0-)

    I'd say: we hike where we are. You have made the best of your location, and I would have done the same trail stuff as you. That's one thing I like about snow shoeing--I KNOW how long the trail has been there, and it is mostly 'since the last time it snowed'!

    You have a pretty good sense of how critters move about. Some are far more stealthy than others.

    Be careful laying in deer beds! They can carry ticks as you know-and those ticks are a prime Lyme disease vector. Be careful!

    "The better I know people, the more I like my dog."

    by Thinking Fella on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 10:02:31 PM PST

  •  My 2 Toto Dogs Charged a Doe But Were Stunned (17+ / 0-)

    to find her charging them right back and clubbing them both with her hooves. My boys were screaming like animals clenched in traps. I had to charge the doe hollering and waving my arms to finally back her off lest she'd kill my 2 Totos.

    There hadn't beem time for her to seriously injure them but it took my wife and me half an hour to scrub their butt fur clean of their fear-shit.

    What none of us, even the Totos, realized in the moment, was that at the position where the Totos spotted the doe and started to charge, was that underneath the bush a few feet over lay two brand new fawns, barely bigger than our Totos.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 10:06:57 PM PST

    •  Thank You (7+ / 0-)

      I was going to issue a caution about getting TOO close to a deer. They aren't as placid as they look.

      Unless you know them well - and I'm speaking as a southern Ohioan whose had does take up permanent residence on her farm - keep your eyes on their body movements and they'll let you know when its time to turn around and walk away. When she snorts or stamps her foot - she's giving you fair warning.

      Most definitely keep your distance in the spring when their fawns are somewhere around. If you see a fawn all by itself DO NOT assume it's been abandoned or orphaned. It appears to be alone for a very good reason.

      As long as they have those spots on them fawns have no scent. This is to help protect them from predators. Mom, otoh, has plenty of scent. So mother does will leave their fawns alone for much of the time to keep from attracting any predators in the area. She's not as far off as you may think though and she's watching.

      One last tip if you want to see deer close up. Step One: Move to southern Ohio. Step Two: Plant garden. You'll see more deer than you can count!

      Meddle not in the affairs of dragons... for thou art crunchy and good with ketchup.

      by Pariah Dog on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 10:26:41 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  We just put a bowl of birdseed on the porch (5+ / 0-)

        A young mule deer doe walked up the back steps to get on the porch, along the west side of the house, and all the way across the front of the house to get to it.

        By the time I turned on the porch light, she had cleaned out the bowl, and we stood and stared at each other for about 5 minutes, separated by a pane of glass, but about 4 feet apart.

        As to garden - they cleaned that out this summer, everything from strawberry plants to hollyhocks. I don't know why - it's the first time that's happened, and there was plenty of other food around. But only one of them likes the clover we planted for them.

        Modern revolutions have succeeded because of solidarity, not force.

        by badger on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 11:34:07 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  please don't feed wildlife (0+ / 0-)

          thank  you.

          How big is your personal carbon footprint?

          by ban nock on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 06:21:15 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  There's no problem (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Pandoras Box

            with a little treat now and then, or when the weather is especially bad. The only trouble would be if you do it so often they start to depend on you.

            I've fed birds for years and naturally every other creature great and small around here knows it. That's why the feeders are so close to the house, but even that doesn't stop the freeloaders.

            Meddle not in the affairs of dragons... for thou art crunchy and good with ketchup.

            by Pariah Dog on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 04:55:55 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  I feed the birds in winter (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            erratic

            but I agree with you.  It may be well intentioned, but it messes with things - and has repercussions you don't envision.  I found this out for myself - I put out food for a doe and twins one extremely harsh winter - in Vermont - that can be pretty harsh.  It was big mistake as I found.  By the end of the winter a couple dozen deer traversed daily through deep snow from  their deer yards at the promise of food.  It put them in danger, and harsh as it may sound, it doesn't help them to survive during the winter if they normally wouldn't.  More deer surviving, means more fawns, and a larger deer population.  The carrying capacity gets strained, and more deer will starve the next winter.  I meant to help my little family of deer, but I realized, I was messing with nature and it wasn't good for them.

        •  They're like kids, dogs and cats (0+ / 0-)

          They always want what they know they're not supposed to have.

          Or, depending on where you live, they might have known it was going to be a hard winter.

          Meddle not in the affairs of dragons... for thou art crunchy and good with ketchup.

          by Pariah Dog on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 05:15:24 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  You're right (8+ / 0-)

        I live in Southern Ohio and no longer have a garden because of the deer. They won. Now I put a few tomatoes in the area around the house fenced for the dogs, and they have never bothered them. The garden was too big anyway. :)

        A few years ago in early autumn, a doe and her two fawns began showing up every evening to check if anything fell from the apple tree. The tree is inside the fenced area, but part of it hangs over the fence and apples fall out there. This doe was super tame. I used to sit just inside the garage doorway and watch her, and most evenings she would clean up the apples then come check me out.  She would approach to as close as three feet, lower her head a little and scrutinize me closely as I talked to her. It was amazing. Sometimes she would lie down for a rest only a dozen feet from where I sat.
         She was so beautiful and peaceful. Her fawns came fairly close, but were far more skittish than Mom.

        This lasted for a couple of months, then one of the fawns disappeared, then around Christmas Mom herself stopped coming. It was a real treat that she made the choice to allow me to know her a little bit, and I was sad when she was gone.

        •  I had one like that (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kdub, kayak58, Quackerz, KenBee

          It was a while back and I'm pretty sure she's gone now, but she lived here for six or seven years. Always dropped twins every year and I swear she'd leave them close to the house for me to babysit. I've got some fantastic pictures of both her and her kids.

          I've never encouraged too much friendliness though because, as you know, hunting is huge down here. I don't want them to think hoomans are no threat.

          As for the garden, I always had a chain link fence for the bunnies and coons, but of course the deer laughed themselves silly over that. I went out and got some 8 ft. wooden poles and some of that black plastic netting. Attached the poles to the fence stakes and stapled the netting to them. I figured if they could jump that they'd earned whatever they wanted. I tie strips of cloth to the netting here and there. I know mine are on the hill watching this exercise, but I don't want the occasional drifter not realizing there's something there and getting tangled in it. It works like a charm and has the benefit of being cheap.

          So we're simpatico now. They can have all the apples they want 'cause I have lots, and I sell the pictures I take of them.

          Meddle not in the affairs of dragons... for thou art crunchy and good with ketchup.

          by Pariah Dog on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 05:11:24 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Good story (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            erratic, KenBee

            My garden was too much trouble and expensive to fence. I tried everything short of fencing though, and the last straw was when one of them somehow managed to step into an unused wire tomato cage and did a panic tour through the green beans etc. Pure carnage. I would rant and get mad when things would be destroyed, so I finally decided it just was not worth it and seeded some grass there. I enjoy them now.

        •  NW Oregon Deer Experience (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          erratic, Quackerz
          I live in Southern Ohio and no longer have a garden because of the deer. They won. Now I put a few tomatoes in the area around the house fenced for the dogs, and they have never bothered them. The garden was too big anyway.

          I've lived and gardened in rural NW Oregon since 1975. I, and now my wife of five years, depend on our veg. garden for a significant amount of our sustenance, and the peace that can come with gardening, so I ended up fencing our 40 X 60 (approx.) garden area, and also, because I love growing roses, the 20 X 20 rose garden.

          We have found that the deer in our area (black tails and the occasional Columbian white tail) don't seem to care for tomatoes, potatoes or squash plants, but the rest is on their menu at times.

          It's a simple fence, just chicken wire on metal posts that deer could easily push aside, but I put an electric fence wire around the bottom of the fencing and since deer tend to use their neck and head to push barriers aside, they get zapped and stay away.

          "We will find fulfillment not in the goods that we have, but in the good we can do for each other." ~ RFK

          by paz3 on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 10:36:23 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  My deer loved tomatoes...even the vines (0+ / 0-)

            They trashed everything I grew except peppers and broccoli. Green beans and cukes and squash were a delicacy along with carrots and beets (they ate the tops down to the soil line.) One year I tried a tiny patch of beets in a flower bed and they stated eating them. I set a rat trap in the center of the beets and then carefully laid a piece of turkey wire (1/4" mesh) on top of it. Nothing could get to the trap and get hurt, yet any pressure on the turkey wire would spring the trap and throw the wire up into the deer's face. It must have been scary because it was only sprung a couple of times then left alone.

    •  I had the same experience with my beloved lab Lou (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      erratic

      and a doe - he inadvertently got too close to her newborn fawns, twins.  She came out of nowhere - edge of the woods really, and thundered after him, hot on his tail, with clear murderous intent.  He ran straight for me.  I turned tail and ran iinto my vegetable garden, Lou galloping in after me (tearing through my carrot bed) and I slammed the wooden gate shut - a second before the doe tried to tear in after us.  Lou meant no harm, but the doe had just given birth, as I later discovered.  She was scary as hell.  I calmly spoke to her, and tried to calm her down, and she moved off 30 paces, huffing, and watching us balefully.  Poor Lou.  I got him tied with my belt and led him back along a path to my house.  I carried a shovel for protection for us both, trying to show her I had him under control, and we meant no harm.  My knees were knocking.  Poor Lou was completely demoralized.  It was an amazing experience.  Later that fall, she and twins would come into my yard for windfall apples.  That winter was very tough, ice storm after ice storm, and they browsed under my bird feeders.  I started putting out some hay and grain for them - but that's another story, and let me say, not a good idea at all.  It messes with everything, and long story short, by the end of the winter, I had 20 deer in my yard.  The doe and her twins were regulars around my garden for years.  I always treasured seeing them.  I never encouraged them to come close, but the female twin would have come right up to me if I'd encouraged it.  The male twin was more standoffish - as well he should have been.  It's his picture that I use as my profile pic here.  He was outside my window, nibbling bird seed that had fallen from the feeders, looking in to see us nestled inside with books and tea.

  •  Beautifully written (9+ / 0-)

    T&R.

    To make the argument that the media has a left- or right-wing, or a liberal or a conservative bias, is like asking if the problem with Al-Qaeda is do they use too much oil in their hummus. Al Franken

    by Youffraita on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 11:34:53 PM PST

  •  Lovely meditation. (6+ / 0-)

    Republishing to Personal Storytellers.

    I get to choose, and I choose love.

    by Melanie in IA on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 04:57:54 AM PST

  •  Beautifully written. This is a lovely still point (6+ / 0-)

    in an increasing crowded and pointlessly busy world.

    "I speak the truth, not as much as I would, but as much as I dare, and I dare a little the more, as I grow older." --Montaigne

    by DrLori on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 07:18:32 AM PST

  •  The deer know... (9+ / 0-)

    Every year, we see the local does with their new fawns, sometimes twins and even triplets. They graze on our acre, and cannot resist inspecting any gardening we might do. We have a large collie dog. Collies have little prey drive, as they are programmed to protect their flock, whatever it is. The deer know we've trained our dog not to chase them. Each year, it is highly amusing to watch the doe bring her fawns up to see the dog, who just sits there. Our collie draws the line at being sniffed by the young deer. She gets up, comes to the door, and barks to come in. I guess there are just some things a self-respecting dog won't tolerate.

    •  I live in the Blue Ridge Mountains.. (11+ / 0-)

      and I have a family of deer that live on my land.  Once there was a fawn lying in a clearing in the sunshine.  One of my older dogs walked right over to it, smelled it and walked away.  I didn't even know it was there until I saw my dog smelling it.  It didn't even move.

      I love deer.  I don't know how anyone can shoot one.  I know all the arguments for hunting.  And I don't care.  I love deer.

      I loved your diary.  I hike the paths of deer all over these mountains.

      •  the dead ends and hidden intersections answer (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        erratic, ladywithafan, walkshills, kayak58

        a lot of questions I forgot I had.

        In upstate ny I used to run deer trails in the woods during fall cross country season. I remember running over a hill and down thru an abandoned apple orchard right thru a herd of apple drunk deer, some ran, some stayed as I kept running up the other side of the next hill and away.
          Recently saw the area has been designated a nature preserve.

        Excellent writing erratic...thank you for sharing it.

        This machine kills Fascists.

        by KenBee on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 02:05:49 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Beautiful diary ! (5+ / 0-)

    I live on Mount Desert Island, on the coast of Maine, home to Acadia National Park. Hunting has been banned on the island since the 1930's. The deer population has grown and they are increasingly coming into town to munch on peoples' landscaping, so there has been an outcry against them, some even lobbying for hunting.

      Not going to happen !

     It is one of the things I love about this town, coyotes singing at the edge of town, living Christmas tableaux of small groups of deer poised against the snow on side streets in the winter. Not being a very good gardener, I don't mind when they wander into the yard. I do have a rambunctious largish dog and that keeps them away, somewhat !

     There was one day on the athletic field, dog off leash, when I saw a doe wanting to come our way, but eyeing the dog most dubiously - fortunately, Stella did not see her, so I called the dog and put on leash, then moved away, around the tennis court fence. The doe seemed to know all about leashes, she dipped her head politely and sashayed right by us and on her way !

     You explain very perfectly about those paths that look so promising and then end abruptly ! I always thought they were due solely to dufuses like me walking down and turning back again, making the path endure a bit longer. Now I know, it's the deer at work !

     Thanks much !

    “Good things don’t come to those who wait. They come to those who agitate!” Julian Bond

    by Dvalkure on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 09:35:32 AM PST

  •  Deer are terrorists (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KenBee, walkshills

    They launch suicide attacks on motorists. I know a number of people who were victims, and I've had a couple of close calls.

  •  beautiful diary! (7+ / 0-)

    I share a love of the same animal as you do - and have spent many, many hours in the woods with them, or wandering around looking at their sign and figuring out their habits and peculiarities.

    On the farm (surrounded by a pretty urban area), deer recognize individual humans, and individual vehicles - and base their threat assessment on that as well.  They see me, and pay me no attention.  They are a little more wary of my truck, but when I'm on the tractor, they let me get quite close without worry.

    I can be out in the middle of the field, working the tomato patch - and have had 6 deer walk up within bow range, or have a buck and doe come bed down within 30 yards of me while I'm hoeing weeds, yet my cousin will walk down the field for a visit, and they will quickly scoot for cover.

    A bowhunter friend has a red truck - I've watched the deer see his truck, and turn the other way - and avoid his hunting area completely.

    At the same time, I've been in the treestand, and watched two friends come over to dump some brush.  They didn't know I was in the stand, and had an 8-pointer walk down the trail between us.  The deer was 50 yards away from them in the woods, but since they were unloading brush, he just wagged his tail, and walked around them.

    Again, beautiful diary. Thank you!

    Obama saw this a**hole coming a mile away.

    by MusicFarmer on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 09:53:10 AM PST

  •  We have deer frequent our yard (9+ / 0-)

    We live across the street from a wooded area, have an unoccupied lot next door (it used to belong to my father-in-law) that is now growing over.  I made a pond in our yard a few years ago and made it a bit bigger this past year, with a little waterfall.  It is a source of water for many creatures in the area.  Especially since it was do dry this past summer.

    Sitting on the gazebo last year, with camera in hand, I was able to get a few shots of a young visitor:

    http://www.ljpimages.smugmug.com

    by abbysomething on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 11:25:09 AM PST

  •  One of the best places to be with deer (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    erratic, KenBee, walkshills

    Is Shenandoah Natonal Park.  Specifically, the Big Meadows camping area.  In the park, deer are protected, and those around the camping areas are very accustomed to humans.  They're not tame, and you can't approach them; but you can sit and watch them do what deer do, a lot closer up than most places.  It's a wonderful place.

    Alas, though it's illegal, I'm sure some people feed them.  We had an experience at a trail head while we were watching a nicce young buck browse through the underbrush.  We were hoping to get a good picture of him, but were also afraid we'd scare him off.  As it happened, he actually approached us, and nibbled on the spouse's fingers as she was taking his picture.  We have a great picture of a deer nose.

  •  walking a back country trail here in socal (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    erratic, walkshills, kayak58

    by a creek, I came upon a doe as she calmly kept eating grass about 12' away.
      I stayed on the trail, we read each others blank calm thoughts .
    I walked on.

    If I had moved off the trail 1/2" she would have been alarmed...another trail function, defining intent.

    I was playing peek a boo with a Pine Marten in Yosemite once, we stared at each other for 20 minutes...when I shifted my foot....slooooowly off the trail he freaked and ran for cover.
       When I walked away 40', I stopped and turned and he had followed me and was peeking around a tree.  I turned slowly and watched him and took pictures..and after another 20 minutes shifted my toe off trail, away he went to his log hide out home.

    This machine kills Fascists.

    by KenBee on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 02:30:49 PM PST

  •  a dik dik anecdote if I may.... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ban nock, walkshills

    a dik dik is a deer like creature from Africa, it's small and everything wants to eat it.

    My nephew was at a petting zoo with his 3 year old, the dik dik was calmly wandering amongst the children.

    Nephew thought ' I wonder what they taste like' and the dik dik whirled and ran away.

    so there's that mind reading thing again...

    This machine kills Fascists.

    by KenBee on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 06:06:13 PM PST

  •  We live in the foothills (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    walkshills, erratic

    and behind our house, it is gradual steep, not too steep but enough to wear you out if you walk it enough.  We have a place there that the bucks fight it out each fall and it is quite beautiful and dangerous as the author noted.  This year, there were five that gathered and while some fought the others seemed to be in wait.  We see this every year and every year it is something to look forward to.    

    What we really like to watch are the deer at play.  They have a game that begins suddenly and they blaze across the way and then they soon come back.  They do this three and four times at a session.  It amazes me how fast they can move on this as it is a difficult walk for a mere human.  It is clear that there is a reason for the play and that is to prepare for the top predator here, mountain lions.  We have never seen one, but we know that if there are deer, there are the big cats.  Such is nature.

    Thanks for this very informative post, we really enjoyed it and got further knowledge of our playful and beautiful  friends.  

  •  Enjoyed your diary. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kayak58, erratic, blueoasis, KenBee

    You didn't discuss wind and smell and sound, things vital to deer and to their predators.

    Those secondary trails might lead to places where you can hear - especially on creeks and canyon areas - activity from other animals before you have to go on down the trail. Same with wind, particularly prevailing wind, where the smells of everything before you come to you. If you trail ended at a knoll or upslope area, it could be such a scouting point.

    Predators - mountain lions here - use these areas on hills to narrow down the search area. The old big bucks also use the wind in higher, protected places, where they can see and hear as well.

    Re: dik dik reacting to thought - I've always felt deer and many other mammals and birds can gauge your intent in many ways. You describe becoming one with your land, sealing yourself into the day. In doing this, you can move more freely and if you can neutralize your intent, you can stalk most anything.

    The truth is we are tortured by the truth.

    by walkshills on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 12:43:05 AM PST

    •  Great comments, walkshills (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      walkshills, blueoasis, KenBee

      I don't pay as much attention that wind smell and sound, partly because most of my walks are in really "noisy" areas - eg stream valleys with roads and bike trails running through them.

      I do practice moving calmly, and with gentle awareness. I try to connect with a place, and spend as much time sitting and observing, as I do moving.

      I remember one moment in the Potomac River floodplain, sitting for about 30 minutes in an area of high grasses and saplings, and suddenly realizing that I was looking straight at a buck, about 150 feet away, well-camouflaged in the fall browns.

      The instant I realized that I was looking at him, he flushed and ran off. The only possible visual trigger (I hadn't moved) would have been a change of my eye's focus. I'm convinced the deer became aware of my awareness, and reacted to that.

      Since then, I practice bringing a more peaceful, less intrusive/agressive awareness when in nature. Less hunter, and more tree.

      •  Our eyes used a lot of our energy (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        erratic, blueoasis

        and input a certain amount as well, as much as 15%, i've read. Our interaction with the world is energetic and our primary process is vision (if we have our full complement of senses). Out of the massiveness of the universe around us we edit it down to what we have agreed that exists out there. There is always more, things not a part of agreement, things on the edge of agreement and living entities like deer who would prefer to be shielded from that attention we project when we focus, which is an energetic projection. We presume it is our own, that, in essence, leaves no trace and thus can't be felt. However, we live in a world of reflections of light which composes everything and that is a world of activity and motion. Thus, our attention is an interactive, energetic relationship with the world at large and Nature in particular and it begins the moment we step out the door.

        My parents were both born before the Great Depression ('21, '24), each the youngest of large families that made a living from the land with farming and livestock. My grandparents were born in 1866 and 1876 on one side, 1880 and 1881 on the other and I knew three of the four (the oldest died in '41). I can't begin to describe how different they were than people now, how their depression era children, my aunts and uncles, were grounded in that hardscrabble survival mode. All the males hunted as a matter of course and virtually all were meat hunters, not these hardware amateurs we have now. I was a better shot at 12 than most are their whole lives. So I learned the ways of being in the woods and how to stalk the largest game here in central Texas: deer. And to fish, the most mystical of food acquisition.

        Meat hunters often said they were after the big bucks but they almost always settled for food on the table. My father was so prolific at this that it freed me to go after the big bucks and that is when my learning expanded from beyond what I had been taught and experienced with him and my uncles. This led to a different path altogether, an appreciation far beyond just hunting, something much more aligned with Native American interaction with nature and the give and take that entails. That your success in the field is a gift and that you have the power to bestow life just as easily as you take it.

        There is a story I read, now buried in my files somewhere, about a guy from here who never saw any big bucks where he lived in the country. As he grew up he came to think that there were just none around. Then one evening some months after deer season he came across a giant rack that had been recently shed and it was bigger than anything he had ever seen and it was within a few hundred yards of where he lived. He was shocked to find the horns and more shocked to realize he had been so wrong for so long.

        He became a game biologist and wound up working in a game preserve (in, I want to say, Tennessee, somewhat mountainous with plentiful forests and cover). They tagged many animals as well as deer so that could electronically track them and make periodic checks on their condition. One deer became a magnificent buck which he saw a couple of time up until the deer was fully mature, about 3-4 years old. From that point onward, despite the fact he could electronically detect exactly where the deer was, the writer never again laid eyes on the buck. He tried every skill and trick he had and could image to see the deer again over a period of the next few years.

        The buck was there but the writer never saw it again. He then understood why he never saw the big bucks when he was growing up. He also deduced that the buck 'knew' he was coming, that the animal could detect his intent and elude him even with the sophisticated surveillance and tracking.

        From everything I know in a lifetime of hunting - well up to the last five years, I no longer hunt now - the writer's conclusion is accurate. No only do deer know, I suspect all large mammals probably have this capability. For the big bucks, it was life and death in most cases. The writer didn't disclose any connection about hiding his intent, but that is probably the only means by which he could have encountered that deer.

        So, erratic, test this out yourself. The universe is a much more mysterious place than we can realize...and a good part of us spend most of our time reducing it to the mundane, talking and texting it to death, and then wondering why they're so bored. In this sense, our political world and its divisions reflect our internal world in so many ways.

        I think you've found a great path to explore, at once visible to all and yet invisible to most everyone, just like the deer.

        The truth is we are tortured by the truth.

        by walkshills on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 11:58:17 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Northwest Branch in Montgomery County MD (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kayak58, erratic, blueoasis

    My stream valley as a kid was Northwest Branch, which flows through Montgomery and Prince Georges County into the Anacostia River. I hiked there frequently all through the 1960's and saw exactly one deer that happened to be browsing behind Springbrook High School.

    That has obviously changed.

    I moved to the Chicagoland area where  deer are now so plentiful that a local joke is sometimes told," There is still one large predator of deer left in Cook County. The automobile."

    "Don't believe everything you think."

    by BobboSphere on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 04:01:34 AM PST

  •  Creatures of habit (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kayak58, erratic, blueoasis, KenBee

    I wrote the following about white tail deer near the Ozark farm I grew up on. They are commonly sighted now, though as a 1950s kid, I never saw one. There's more cover for them now, as farms are left idle, and farmers have no "down time" in which to clear brush.

    Small farms are carved here and there around the oaks. Pale green squares in a greener checkerboard. Raymond is my childhood friend, the next checker move east. He and I continue to learn from our growing up there. Maybe we are still growing up, as we were when racing to the house for those wonderful threshing crew meals. Both of us racing toward 70 now. “I took the old barbed wire fence down near the Charlie Goode place”, Raymond reports, on my last visit.
     “It was rusted and rotten, and I don’t got no cows any more. But you know, it was the damnedest thing. About six o’ clock, I was brush hogging there, and here came the deer. They know me. But the tractor noise scared’em, so they ran off the hill.  And up they jump, right over that fence.
    Only, the fence was gone, three weeks already"
    He laughed, the leaping deer rerunning in his mind.  

  •  Missed this yesterday - so glad I saw it today! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueoasis

    A beautiful meditation.  

    And you give some of the best advice:

    Be in one place for a long time, long enough at least for the shadows to move. Long enough for the birds and other beings to forget the noise that you brought to this place. Long enough for a spiderweb to settle on you. Long enough to be ignored.
    I live with deer, and many other creatures.  There is no hunting on my property (NE Penn.) but there are game lands just across the river (about a mile).  I know if I hear gunshot from across the river, deer, and turkeys, will soon be moving across my land headed down to the bog.  They feel safe there as it is not hospitable to humans.

    The deer often stop in my yard and on more than one occasion have been nose to nose with my dog (a mini dachshund).  He doesn't chase them or get excited and they do not seem to see him as a threat.  All the tiny furries run away and he does love to chase them.  But I doubt he will chase another skunk; not after the last encounter.

    Most of the time I ignore the animals and they ignore me.  We each have our functions.  Mine is to provide a nice, lush garden of all their favorite veggies in the summer and lots of sunflowers and suet in the winter, and to keep the peanut box filled.  Their's is to eat what I provide.

    Seriously, I love living in the woods.  When it snows, I can't wait to get out and follow the tracks.  I have become much calmer and quieter in the last few years and I believe it is because of my woods environment.    

    "May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house." - George Carlin

    by Most Awesome Nana on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 11:34:21 AM PST

  •  This is a beautiful diary (0+ / 0-)

    I love your thoughts about trails.  True, how the waterways defined deer trails, the deer trails were followed by trappers, then settlers followed, and built roadways for carts.  The evolution of landscape.  And the deer paths are still there, for those with a quiet eye, and some time to spend at the edge of a meadow, or walking in the woods.  It's a shame that most people never get to spend quiet time in a forest.  The world would be a better place, I think, if we all did.

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