A few years ago, we had two mother does and their two children frequent our orchard. The small twisted rotten apples that lay under the trees were a great culinary treat for the deer. When deer season came around, my husband encouraged me to hunt them in our nearby woods and put one in our freezer. So I carted a 5-gallon plastic bucket out to the woods, turned it over and put a pillow on top, loaded my dad’s 30-06 and waited ‘til dusk fell. The deer came to visit our orchard every evening for weeks until the evening I decided to hunt them.
I derive no joy from hunting alone and have only half-serious male friends and brothers who offer to let me tag along when deer season comes. (When my father was alive, we happily shared this sport.) Over the years, we found an alternative when it came to filling our freezer with meat. We used to pick up road killed deer, for years, and our freezer was always well-stocked, beings we live near the Blue Mountain and busy PA Rt 895 and the white tail frequently try to cross. Folks knew we harvested the “gifts from the road” and would let us know when a fresh one lay recently dead. We only butchered recent kills and believe me, there are ways to tell as in bloated bellies, etc. You have to be an opportunist too and drop everything to fetch and butcher. It seemed to always happen at inconvenient times. It’s been years since we picked up one. They don’t last long on the road before other folks pick them up, probably that need the meat more than us. We make more money now to buy meat although we still believe it pales in comparison to venison’s nutrition and health.
This past year we have had the great pleasure of having two mommies and their single children visit our orchard. We saw them out there all the time, at every time of the day. The kids of course, had little fear of us. They had not lived through a hunting season. Our house sitter, Tom Kennedy, who took care of our home and property when we were traveling, loved seeing them and often got to walk up very close to them. They became his friends. Sometime between last summer and now, we lost a mommie doe. She must have gotten shot by our neighbor in one of the hunting seasons. The remaining doe cares for her orphan and is perhaps her niece or nephew!
With all the snow on the ground this winter, we got to watch the deer threesome’s activities and follow their patterns and habits by observing their tracks. We often see them on our lawn in the morning or evening, and one night we came home and saw what looked like they held a square dance in the yard, it was so torn up. That edge of the drain field is ringed with oak trees and a few straggler acorns must still remain under the snow. They also nibble at our rhododendron and our azalea and I saw that our emerging lilie tips were snipped off.
Today, early April, we had a freak 4-inch snow storm and before I began my day’s work, I decided to go out and walk our perimeter trail around our 12- acre property. We built the trail before we had kids and it was Sierra and Bryce’s first trail experience and where we used to train our inexperienced llamas to lead. As soon as I began to walk this morning, I noticed that the deer were using the border trail too. That’s’ nice! As soon as I got past my writing cabin, I saw the tracks go off to the left. There sat a small hemlock grove with the branches heavy laden with snow and draped to the ground. Should I go see if the ground is tracked up? But they might be still in there, cozy and warm and don’t want to be disturbed out of their beds. So, I crept slowly a distance away and sure enough, I see their heads poking around looking at me. I was so delighted. I left them go, of course, like I did their relatives years ago on my bucket, when I thought of hunting them. Maybe it was the same mothers.
There will be no hunting neighbors on my property. I should have never considered killing our neighbors years ago. It somehow feels immoral in my mind. The animals have a certain level of trust taking up their lives and existence on your property. They allow you to observe them and co-exist together. I would rather eat hormone-laced grocery store meat or be a vegetarian than kill my neighbors. Our human neighbor might shoot the deer and I cannot do anything about that but they will find refuge on our land, under our hemlock trees, eating our apples and flowers. We will live in peace and we will happily eat our beans and rice.
Posted in: Life's Moments and Lessons