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Buck Fever

Sunday, December 6, 2009

It's over.

As of today, gun season in Ohio ends. It's been a fun week. There's been a big pickup truck parked in our turnaround, smack in the middle of it, nobody able to get by, and that includes us and the paper delivery guy and the myriad other delivery people who use it. There's been a series of hunters perched in a tree stand a stone's throw off our driveway most of the week, too, all hunkered down in flame orange. We haven't come out of the house even to walk to the mailbox, figuring we might look a bit too much like whitetails. I'm still haunted, years later, by the memory of the woman in Maine who wore white gloves while hanging out her laundry in her own backyard and was gunned down by a hunter just inside the woods. He thought her hands were a deer's tail. A deer that was hanging up sheets on a line. Buck fever is a weird thing. So needless to say, all hikes were canceled for the week. Which makes me just a tiny bit cranky. And ever so slightly crazy. Like this post.

warning...graphic photo coming up.

On the third morning, there was this,

parked right where Liam and Phoebe wait for the bus every morning. Phoebe, at 13, is cool. And it was dark when she got on the bus, and I saw it, but she didn't. Liam, at 10, is not cool. And neither am I. I am not cool about a truck full of corpses in my driveway where my tender-hearted boy is concerned. Hmm. What to do?

The trick was to keep him from seeing them as we waited for the bus. (No, he doesn't read my blog). So, knowing this vision awaited us at 7:45 AM, when the sun would be coming up, Bill and I kept sweet Liam facing us in the car, engaged and gabbing, and then we flanked him like Secret Service agents as we walked him to the bus, and somehow we kept him from seeing it.

Helicopter parents? Hardly. We just know our boy. If I had seen that in my driveway at age 10, I would probably be the vegan CEO of PETA right now. Or ninja black, blowing up things for Earth First! And though I'm sure those are interesting life choices, I'd rather my son not start his little day with a bunch of dead deer in his driveway. He loves deer.

On the fourth morning, the hunters left, leaving only footprints, a pile of plastic trash, a bunch of reflective flagging, some bloody latex gloves, a few candy and snack wrappers, a badly barked tree, and a huge gutpile under where they'd had their tree stand. That's how we could tell they were all done. If you hope to shoot some more deer, you don't leave a gutpile under your stand. Hey, it's their land, and they can do what they want. It's not what I'd do. I'd pick up after myself. As we will pick up after them. At least the crows are enjoying the innards.

But you know, I hunt, too. I especially like hunting bucks. Like this one, who came into our meadow the first afternoon of gun season. Sweet little six-pointer. Had 'im dead to rights.

And I shot him again, as he plunged into the purely theoretical safety of our 80 acres of posted land. I particularly enjoyed taking that last shot.

Bill posts the borders every year. He takes it seriously. Here, he's using the newspaper delivery bag with which he delivered the Marietta Times as a teen.

Since he's taller than most anybody around here, and he stands on a joint compound bucket when he posts, trespassers have a harder time ripping our signs down now. Learned that one the hard way.

That's a big bear, scratching on his tree.

I got a real nice ten-pointer last week. Baited him with sweet talk. He came right in. Lung shot.

Another lung shot

and then a flank shot

and a parting shot.

Never did manage to drop him. Never wanted to.

It's sixteen degrees, a pink and blue dawn, powdered sugar on everything. Finally, a real killing frost. No roses will make it through this one. Three deer feed in our meadow, materializing from dark blobs to a doe and her two fawns. Somehow they've had the sense to stay here all week, in the center of our land, wide open and often visible from our house. The gunshots ring out all around as I write, in a closing day frenzy. Tomorrow, I walk again.


I'm glad you kept Liam from seeing the carnage. And what a shame that they left it there in your way as though it was your mess, not theirs. Along with their refuse... What a shame.

You're the best kind of hunter there is: hunting with your eyes and heart instead of a rifle and ammo. You've really bagged some great deer in your shots.

Enjoy your walk, Julie. You deserve it.

(BTW, sorry I haven't commented in a while. This account selection thing never works for me. It takes multiple tries to get my comment through [even with Chrome, Google's own browser], but mostly it throws my text to the wind and says it can't process my request at this time. I've retyped many comments many times before finally giving up... I'm no technological fool, but I can't figure this out except to use IE and keep submitting until it finally takes.)

Ugh...I had a similarly traumatic experience when I was in freshman or sophomore year of high school, and I got off the bus (I think it was still before the sun had risen; either that or it was a stormy day) and looked up to see a dead deer carcass hanging by its neck from the flagpole. I wasn't the only one appalled by such cruelty and disrespect for the dead, but it was a small conservative town, and not entirely unexpected. Good of you to attempt to protect your kids from such sad sights.

At least the hunters (I assume) are eating the meat they shoot; we've had managed hunts in our county for a good while now, and the sharpshooters either eat the deer or donate the meat to homeless shelters, which seems like a good all-around solution to the overpopulation problem. And oh, the deer look so fat and healthy now! The other day a herd of five whitetails (I think three or four bucks) went bounding by as I worked in the woods, looking glossy and bright-eyed and happy. I've been a vegetarian since I was ten and used to be one of those militant PETA activists, but now I find hunting much more humane than the commercial beef or chicken industry, for all parties involved.'s sad to see creatures that are so spectacular and magical in life to be reduced to a "gutpile"...yikes, what a horrendous word! Glad you'll be able to roam freely after today--you and the deer both.

Hey Julie...was searching Google for an answer to my Carolina Wren situation and stumbled onto your writing blog. Imagine to my amazement as I read your wren in the garage story. I am going through the exact thing. I love my little Wrens and was afraid I was going to kill them by closing them in at night. I feel much better and relieved to know they will be fine. Thanks so much for your post and I feel the same way about winter...I love it for all the slowed down and wonderful magic it brings with it.
Your friend,

This is a topic on which I struggle--on one hand, humans are by far the worst of all animals on the planet. We have gotten the balance of nature so out of whack--no large predators left in sufficient numbers on the North American continent to keep deer numbers at sustainable levels. And on the other hand, hunting is hardly sporting, more like armed slaughter.
I completely approve of your protecting Liam. I'd have done the same for my boy when he was young & sweet.

If I'd seen that at Liam's age, I might not have survived it. As it is, I was about ten when I saw a driver deliberately swerve to mow over a snapping turtle (Daddy had gotten out of the car to nudge it off the road with his tripod), and I was so loudly inconsolable that eventually the family threatened to leave me by the side of the road. I can STILL see it.

I commented on BOTB’s blog about a friend who has a large piece of property not terribly far from Whipple. He has had a number of problems with trespassing hunters. My buddy had an off day on Tuesday and decided to go check on the cabin. This summer he had a nice metal swinging gate installed at the end of the driveway into the woods. When he arrived at the property, he found the gate closed but the lock had been cut off. He immediately called the sheriff who dispatched a deputy.

My friend followed the deputy up the drive where they found a small camper and a pick-up parked outside the cabin. There was a deer carcass in the back of the pick-up. The camper had a hose connected to the outside faucet on the cabin and there were 2 extension cords plugged in as well. The deputy confirmed that the camper was running a refrigerator off the electric hook-up.

A quick check on the plates confirmed the vehicles are owned by a father and son, both of whom have numerous citations for trespassing, illegal entry, vandalism, and hunting without a license. The deer in the pick-up did not have a tag which warranted a call to the local wildlife officer.

Both vehicles ended up getting towed. The DA decided to file petty theft charges against the owner of the camper for the illegal water and electric hook-up. The owner of the pick-up, who previously had his hunting license suspended, is facing charges for the deer. They never saw the owner of either vehicle and both vehicles were still in the county impound as of this morning.

The sheriff has been sending a deputy by everyday to check on the cabin. So far so good. I have to travel to Marietta for a business meeting tomorrow morning. I’m going to take the scenic route home Monday afternoon and check on the cabin myself. We’re expecting at least some vandalism, possibly something worse, it’s probably just a matter of time.

Exactly, Murr. A mom knows what her child is up for and what he isn't. I have lived that scenario while trying to rescue box turtles--had people deliberately swerve to crush them even as I ran to get them out of the way. And a part of me never gets over it. Soon enough, there won't be any box turtles to smash, but those who could do such a thing will never connect the dots. I'm sure I was a huge PIA as a child, weeping loudly over each squandered life. But it's that passion I love in my Liam.

Cnemes, I'm right on the page with you. These guys are presumably eating the deer, and being dropped with a shot is far preferable to being confined in a CAFO and never seeing the sky. I fully support hunters who eat what they kill. I just wish these guys were more considerate of us.

Jason, thanks for "exposing" me. I imagine some new readers might freak out at my tongue-in-cheek safari. And just know that I have to hit "Preview" four times for every comment I post. It's SUCH a pain! My comments have dropped off precipitously ever since I went on Blogspot. You shouldn't have to beg Blogspot to take your lousy little comment. And Blogspot's search engine doesn't work, either. But Blogger quit working altogether, so I was forced to move. Sigh. You get what you pay for, I guess. And this is free. So I'll keep hitting "Preview" until it accepts my comment. Here goes...

I am torn. I'm not crazy about seeing dead deeer, I always feel bad when I see them. And yet I eat venison, my husband hunts. Neither one of my sons hunt, but they had no problem with going out to the tailgate to see what daddy got, when they were young. In fact my youngest used to glory in sticking his fingers up the deer's nose, for some reason (all boy, he is). We ate every bit of what we got and helped (along with others) to keep the a small local butcher shop in business. To a family low on money, a freezer full of meat is a godsend.

My grandfather hunted, between his hunting and the garden, that's what they lived on (and fishing), in Maine. Store bought bologna and white bread was like Christmas candy to my mom, a huge treat. My kids have grown up with the reality of food sources, more than many kids.

I think it's extremely rude to park a truckload of deer in or near someone's driveway. You don't do that, you don't hunt on private property without express permission, you DON'T field dress your deer or butcher it, and throw the refuse along where people walk or drive. It's just gross, in a few days it will smell and no one wants to look at it every day.

The deer my husband has gotten over the years, he got with a clean shot, he will track one that he doesn't get (only happened once) to make sure it wasn't just injured and suffering. Hunters can be sportsman, many times he came home to tell me of a shot he could have gotten but preferred to just watch the deer from his tree. You want to hear slaughter, listen to him tell about his days as a teenager working in a butcher shop. The cow that your HamLoaf came from did not die as quickly as those deer probably did. The chicken tenders our kids tear into were not painlessly created. How did we, in just a few generations, go from family meat-raising, butchering and preserving, to having all our meats wrapped and trayed and nicely presented? It makes me wonder, sometimes.

And I could never be PETA. I like having pets too much!

Erik: What IS it with some hunters and hubris?? The modus operandi around here is to bait right beneath the stand, to set up a solar-powered bait station that dispenses corn for a couple of months prior to hunting season. So every deer for miles around comes at the same time every day to eat. You can find these bait stations just by listening for the birds--titmice, nuthatches, cardinals, mourning doves--that are coming to the bait.
Day One of hunting season arrives, guy climbs up the stand, and BLAM! He's got his deer. Is that sportsmanship, or slaughter? It has nothing to do with hunting, that's for sure. Ugh. I like your story.

Erik, those men aren't hunters. They're thieves and out and out criminals.

My cousin lives in Wasilla, AK, in a more remote area. While building his house over the past few years, he lost generators, tools, extension cords etc. He finally had to put up an steel gate until he moved in, because if the thieves couldn't back up to the house, they wouldn't take anything. He also discovered that they wouldn't steal pink extension cords! So many of his tools, cords etc are shades of pink.

Sorry to post again in as many minutes. I just re-read my post and I didn't mean it to sound as a judgement on your parenting - or of Liam.

We live next door to a little country store - who also serves as a check-in station during deer season. It's nothing to walk out early Sat. morning and see a half-dozen trucks with deer in the back. We've just gotten used to it over the years.

It's one of those things I think about from time to time, the 'sterility' of our food for most of us. I'm guilty of it too. When someone talks about not taking a child to funeral, I think about how in past generations, children lived with childbirth and death, the laying out of deceased relatives in the home, the Victorian memento mori of living children posed with dead siblings, the Amish children around here who work on the farm and help butcher meat. And where our children are in all that, mine included.

But not a reflection on you guys, 'k? Just random thoughts of mine.

Absolutely no offense taken, Holly. I'm always torn between showing them the blood and guts and figuring out what they're up for. Thanks for the clarification, but it isn't needed. I'm all for knowing where things come from, as are you.

I too have a tenderhearted boy - my oldest (not the deer-nose picking one). I have been constantly amazed by his thought process on all things living and dying, as he's grown up. Things are not always easy for the tender ones. But his acceptance of such things over the years - ok, so we eat the deer, but we're going to die and make grass and some grazer will eat that.

He's 22 now and wonderously thoughtful, not your typical 20something. He is into wolf pack conservation, recycling, preservation of the earth and its resources. He scolds his friends who throw their soda cans in our trash. He bought me more reusable grocery bags. He wants a green funeral - not for years, certainly - but has mentioned it as being a great idea.

From the tenderhearted children come compassionate adults. And we need all of those that we can get.

The reaction of a child says a lot.
Before an explanation can be given as to why what seems to be disturbing is really acceptable, we see the most natural response.
If you want clarity on an issue--ask a child.
Their understanding is uncluttered.
Keep diverting Liam's eyes.

Thanks for a great post, Julie. Liked the comments, too. Your blog engenders remarks that are worth reading, unlike many.

@Jason: Firefox with the Lazarus extension will save you a world of text-box hurt.

Further remark on PETA. They lost all my respect (for their common sense) when they sanctioned throwing blood, ketchup and red paint on women wearing furs. What's Ms. Gotrocks going to do? She'll go right out and buy another mink coat, at the expense of the insurance company. She'll learn nothing, and support the slaughter of more animals for fur.

If those deep thinkers can't reason out the effects of their actions any better than that, I'm not interested -- no matter how alluring their ads.

:-) Digitalzen--we're on the same page.

I've just installed Lazarus, and am leaving a test comment to see if it makes it any less painful to leave a comment on my own ^%^* blog. Can we pare it down from five steps, five different page loads? Here goes...

My grandparents are ranchers and every year they get at least one phone call asking if the caller can go deerhunting on their property. I don't know why any person who raises cattle would allow that, but hey, I'm a little biased.
My grandparents went deer hunting every year when they were younger, they used all the meat and actually hunted in the mountains for their deer. To them that is deer hunting, not staying in civilization and hunting deer that are a little more tame since they are around people more often. I actually do not mind that people deer hunt as I would rather them die a quick death (and people getting to eat the meat, because if you don't eat the meat there is really no reason to hunt the deer) and not starve by overpopulation.

Lots of comments on this one Julie.
I know people hunt and if they eat it, I can accept it as long as it is legal.
Trespassers always upset me.
Parking in the drive is unacceptable and I would have had them towed. Yes even a Canadian would have towed them, we aren't THAT nice.


Hi Julie:

That was just unacceptable behavior on the part of the hunters. If they pulled that in my neighborhood, they would be lucky to have a functioning car to come back to.

I hunted for a number of years and basically stopped because my dog, who really enjoyed it died. For the last few years, I went hunting because she wanted to. And mostly we sat out in the marsh and watched life move around us.

These days I keep track of hunting season so that I know when it is safe to walk in the woods. Unfortunately here in NJ, the hunting season has been extended due to the insanely high deer population, almsot as many deer as there are people. Or so it seems. Maybe if our coyote population was higher, there would be less of an issue.


Don't forget there's also the extra deer/gun weekend in Ohio on Dec 19th and 20th. Keep your head down.

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