Though I often cursed the deer who chomped the heads off my tulips just the day before they blossomed, I miss living with them.
In the first year we lived in our old place up in the meadows, the deer trails out back led me to explore places I might never have ventured.
I would think myself alone scuffing along through the quiet shade when the flick of an ear would reveal the caramel face of a grazing doe who might stand her ground if I did not maintain eye contact. A direct gaze would send her bouncing off through the mare’s tail and cottonwoods and five other bounders would typically spring away from spots I’d never even noticed.
Once I got a garden established, I soon learned that certain plants are irresistible to deer: Beans, peas, broccoli, cabbage, roses and the aforementioned tulips were regularly pruned or obliterated.
We built an eight foot high wire enclosure around the vegetable garden and that solved the veggie eating issue but the flowers suffered yearly unless spring came on fast enough to outpace their browsing: fortunately, they only ate the buds of tulips and roses and not the flowers.
Bucks also enjoyed marking their territory on the bark of trees that we planted by raking their antlers across the trunks. Eventually, I grew extra of certain items in order to care less about the damage.
In the winter, the deer ransacked the bird feeders, tipping them sideways so the grain fell out and then cleaning up from the ground. We never minded this foraging much as they were a comical site gazing in at us through the living room window.
These yard deer grew so used to us that they rarely took off unless we made sudden movements-sometimes even those failed to rouse them: We awoke one night to chomping sounds and upon peering outside, discovered a doe grazing on the top of a flower bed I had spent most of the day weeding. Appreciative of the ease with which she might nibble, she peered towards the light we shone at her. Frustrated that she was destroying my handiwork, I stormed outside, yelling and waving a broom over my head. She waggled her ears at me then bent to chomp some more. Finally, she trotted away after my husband took a run at her.
When we got dogs, the destruction ebbed somewhat but in time, the dogs slept through some of the garden raids. Other times, the hounds would give full chase until the deer reached the woods but on occasion, especially after Buddy died, the deer would turn around and chase the dog, who would run straight for one of us or shoot through the doggie door and into the rec room, safe from punishing hooves.
Like us, the deer have moved on and the neighbourhood has changed. In the ungulate section of our photos I identify Flopsy with her tipped over ear, Mr Handsome, The Boys of Summer and Skinny Stan who really needed the birdseed supplement he got from the feeders. The others stand out for their unique coat colour or jaunty gait.
My tulips are emerging from the snow and I planted extra just in case the tracks I saw the other day belong to a new crew of deer whose names I’ve yet to learn.