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Retired publishing executive ecstatic with the idea of spending most of his time on the coast of Maine

Monday, November 7, 2011

Deer yard

For most of the summer and the fall, the deer have mostly avoided our little patch of civilization, leaving the hostas and phlox and other edibles in our yard alone. I see them just as frequently in the woods in back, however, as they cross and re-cross the several roads going down to the water. Including today.

We're well into hunting season here in Wildlife Management District 25, for moose as well as deer, although an appearance of the former in this semi-rural coast would cause a stampede of hunters more heavily armed with cameras than with cannons. I have eschewed the wearing of any orange hats, not expecting hunters to work so close to Hondas and picture windows. Yet the two deer I saw this afternoon, young does, I theoretically could have shot, had I an antlerless deer permit, a weapon stronger than words, and the proper temperament. They were standing in what I've always thought of as a deer yard, even though it's about as different from a real deer yard as it can be. It's a meadow-like place, with raspberries in July and fireweed in August, with some "weeping" trees whose branches form tents, with a few old apple trees on the edges, with larger trees all around. Sounds like a perfect place to gambol and all the other silly things we impute to wildlife. In reality, it's a terrible place to hang out, too open, too exposed, very unlike a real deer yard which is a place of shelter in the winter, acres of conifers on a south-facing slope that provide shelter from deep snow and high winds.

One of the deer was properly sheltered from attack under some of the weeping branches. I wouldn't have seen it at all if it hadn't been that its companion stood stock-still in the open, glowing in the sunshine like a holy thing. We watched each other for some minutes. I even picked up the dog so she could see, but her eyesight is no longer that good and she was indifferent when I whispered, "See the big dog?" When at last I turned away, I scuffed my foot slightly on the tar. Immediately, the two deer bolted away, white tails flagging.

As I walked back home, I tried to imagine aiming a gun at that creature who stood so clearly, so confidently in its own backyard. I couldn't.

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