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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Hide Bambi. Hunters are in the Forest

Springtime in November?  How glorious the days have been. We've had the brilliance of autumn leaves and warm sunshine more common in April than in November.  I keep expecting to see Robins covering the lawn.  Instead it is the finches and their friends. The goldfinches have had trouble deciding whether to visit the feeder or the darkened seed heads from the Blackeyed Susans.  These two chose the natural selection, but most of the seeds will remain suspended well into winter.

It has been a great fall for taking outdoor photos. No frozen fingers or dropped equipment as I change from gloved to ungloved hands. For several weeks, though, my walks will be limited to the immediate yard. Even then I will be wary, for deer hunting season has begun here in West Virginia.  12 year olds with guns roam the woods.  We lock our gate and let it be known that we don't want strangers hunting our woods and fields, but one property line is near the house. From my back door I can see a deer stand and another from the barn.  This morning as I reloaded the feeders, three doe leaped into the woods across from the house.  I tried to leave quickly so that they would stick close by where they are more safe.  I understand the need for hunting and even a bit of the thrill involved. For many people, deer (or venison for you city folks) is an important part of the winter diet. Most homes in rural West Virginia include a recipe for deer jerky. I worry about the deer that are not killed quickly, only maimed.  Last winter and spring we had a doe hobbling around with a healed broken leg.  The leg flopped behind her as she ran on three heathy legs.  Soon after she was shot, Jeff tried to find her before the dogs or disease did. We were surprised when the leg healed and she lived.  She disappeared, though in late spring, probably victim to dogs or a poacher. 

We have a proud beautiful buck sharing our woods with us.  He has survived the past 3 winters.  Last year he disappeared during hunting season.  We were sure he was gone, only to be surprised when he reappeared in early spring.  While he is wary and always the first to run, we did get to see him over the summer and early fall.  The lone apple tree on the hill with its fruit full off calories and sweetness was too enticing for him to ignore.

For the early part of last year's deer season, he was accompanied by a young buck, a good partnership for them both.  The younger, less experienced buck benifited from the survival skills of the older deer while having another set of eyes, ears and nose made it easier for the older male  to be able to eat without constantly watching his surroundings.

I don't like to think of any of the dead ones as the deer who visited our yard. A doe and two fawn were regulars at sunset and day break outside my bedroom window this summer.  Each spring I impatiently wait for the first siting of the new fawns.  We know they are nearby when we see the mother alone, but watchful, never straying far while she grazes.  This year it seemed late in the summer before  before the mother allowed the youngsters close to our house. 

This does not mean that I am always overjoyed to have so many deer.  There are too many. Often my garden becomes a smorgasborg for the hungry grazers.  Hostas and day lillies don't stand much of a chance in the spring. I spray with tabasco and garlic which helps until the deer develop a gourmet pallet.  I try to plant selections that are unappealing to their taste, but cannot avoid offering numerous meal selections.  Jeff plans to build a fence around the garden before spring brings tasty morsels back into growth. Soon after, I expect to see some high jumping.

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