I love deer. My hunter-son hunts them during hunting season. We both are devoted to our occasionally gainful occupation in life, landscape gardening.
My home, therefore my landscape gardened grounds which surround it, is located in the third tier of middle, very middle class Minneapolis suburbs. Streets here were planned to curve when homes were built in the late 1950s. The lots are bigger, more often the 250 by 120 foot irreglarly-shaped kind rather than the more urban rectangles of the 40 by 100 foot kind in nearby suburbs.
Despite these geographical differences with rare exception, suburbanites have been programmed by the university world to design and plant their home grounds no differently from the rectangles of the far more formal city residential areas.
Virginia white tail deer live and roam nearby. Deer once inhabited my grounds very ‘nearby’, i.e., right under my kitchen window….year after year. The largest number of inhabitants came to 16 visiting there one winter, many years ago, overnighting after feasting on my landscape garden dinner table. Trust me, they ate and ate, probably all night long.
It was then I finally determined that if I were to enjoy the ‘fruit’ of my landscape garden art, I had to discover some kind of ‘deer’ control.
Coyotes do do their job from time to time, but I couldn’t regulate their take of the deer crop…the “why, who and when, or how” were in their hands, not mine.
I decided to begin fencing….somewhere around 600 feet of fencing to secure safety for my plants or many of them would never make it to maturity.
Yet, I was aging. Not only did I have to apply the 600 feet of fencing in late October, but I had to ‘unapply’ it in late March or whenever the 200 feet of pond shoreline was clear of ice. (Virginia white tails, despite their gorgeous warm coats, don’t like shoulder high, ice-cold water to hike through anymore than we humans.)
As soon as the pond ice is cracking up, I begin removing pondside fencing.
Unfortunately, however, the more successfully protected my landscape the rarer the deer appeared in sight.
I haven’t seen a White tail all winter! I see their tracks running through my neighbors’ domains. Deer are usually night travellers hereabouts…..until this very morning.
About eight o’clock when entering my kitchen to prepare morning coffee, my eyes are grabbed by movement along the long hillside to the West of my fenced-in grounds….a wide-open five hundred foot stage made viewable looking through the broad kitchen windows which ‘over see’ the woodsy scenery there. These are grounds owned by neighbors beyond the hill, beyond their efforts to bother its nature.
Six white tail deer caught my eye. Two larger, likely females, perhaps sisters, and four smaller, likely yearlings. I do know that the big bucks are happy loners until mating season in the fall. That is the time we who value our trees in deer country, must protect the trees we love from these stags rutting, damaging or destroying the trunks of any tree of stag choice, best abling the male to fight other males, programmed to fight other males in order to dominate mother-deer land and offspring for the sake of keeping the Virginia White Tail alive as a species.
Early in my residence here, one Spring early one morning while walking along the pond path. Surprisingly, she held her ground, so I began to chat with her…..”Why aren’t you running from me, this morning?” partly joking, I asked.
She actually voiced a snarl-type noise and didn’t look happy or frightened, but concerned, and I could see that….and then I saw what she was wanting to protect….her newborn, still in its sac wiggling to become free.
I backed away as quickly and quietly as I could….and saw mama go to her fawn, chew up most of the birth-sac, nudge junior for a minute or two, pushing the body, then a leg until the newborn stood up.
Whether mama knew I was watching this birth only God knows, for in just a few minutes she began to move up the woodsy hill very much in charge, with baby awkward but seemingly as confident, a few steps behind.
And then the miracle of it all in my opinion…..They both ran off deeper into the woods, as if the kid had been with mama for months.
The six which visited this morning looked well fed. There was nothing gaunt about any of them.
They are beautiful animals. Truthfully, I prefer them to dogs in the neighborhood. Both destroy garden plants. Deer don’t yap, they run away, instead…..and they prefer to find their own eats. Yet, the day years ago when sixteen white tails were counted in my landscape garden, is the day I realized the Virginia White Tail had to be controlled….not eliminated from our neighborhoods, but controlled.
My visitors must have spent the night sleeping on the hillside. They are trail animals perferring to move from place to place for self preservation.
I want them to visit again….that is, to see them resting and eating on the other side of my garden fence. I have bagged oakleaves from the autumn fall which will do the trick just fine.
After all, aren’t they beautiful animals?