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My Christmas Buck

Monday, December 14, 2015

 I was in the studio, working away, when I realized it was time to go pick Liam up at the bus stop, about 15 minutes away. I looked out into the yard to see who was around the feeders, as I do perhaps 50 times a day. And I caught a glimpse of bone-white shining in the tall sumac behind our blue spruce.

My antler-seeking laser homed in on what looked like a smallish, but very nice buck. But he was obscured. Being a buck, I figured he'd stay that way, so I got up in one fluid motion, grabbed the big rig, trained the Canon 7D on him, and started shooting. This might well be the best shot I'd get.  I was trying to count tines, in case he decided to go deeper into the woods.

To my delight and amazement, he came forth from the north border. Eight points! 

I can count the adult bucks I've seen in our yard on one hand. I see them way out in the meadow and orchard, and sometimes up under the pear tree, but only once have I gotten a halfway decent buck photo from the house, and that was many, many years ago, with an Olympus point and shoot. 

Lord have mercy, he's coming out!

The thing that amazed me most about this is that a buck this fine made it through this hunting season, which by any measure was horrific. Horrific in number of people firing guns from 45 minutes before daylight until well after dark, in a ring all around our 80 acres. By the eighth day of that I was on the ragged edge. I couldn't run any of my regular routes. The two times Chet and I tried to run out on our road, we came back thoroughly terrorized by the fusillade. One good thing: I didn't hear any shots from our land, which is posted. In the past, that has done us little good, but this year was different.

This buck feels safe here, that's clear to me.  To be able to look at him at leisure, to shoot portraits of him, was a rare gift, and one not wasted on me. There is very little the natural world gives that is wasted here. I use every moment all up.

 The time to leave to pick up Liam came and went. He's old enough now to wait at the corner; the bus driver won't insist on taking him to the bus garage because no parent showed up to get him. I'd text him when I was done, let him know what was up. He knows I get tied up sometimes...often...

As I squeezed off frame after frame, I let my eyes run over his well-fleshed form. He looks young to me, maybe only 2 1/2 years old. He's had a good start in life. His coat is smooth and shiny. No scars mark his perfect flanks.  He doesn't look like he's known privation.

I think he's young, too, because his neck is not swollen; his facial profile is more like a does'; dished, not Roman-nosed. He doesn't look massive through the chest just yet. He just looks fat. He doesn't look like he ran himself ragged in the rut. He looks like he smiled at the ladies, let the big bucks do the chasing, and ate right through it. 

The number of tines on the antler doesn't mean a whole lot; ageing deer is more a body mass thing. I'd be happy to hear from anyone more knowledgeable, though, on your guess as to his age. Paco?
Anyone? There's always someone more knowledgeable out there. That's why we speak in quiet voices.

I found only one imperfection, and that was a hole on the underside of his left antler, a gouge, which probably happened when the antler was in velvet, and soft and vulnerable. It had long scarred over.

His antlers, not enormous or massive in the beam yet, but his tines are long, high and proud. He's a beauty. He's perfect. And he's nosing around for bird seed under my Colorado blue spruce. I couldn't be more tickled!

He fixed a liquid eye on my beloved Japanese Stewartia treeling, which I've been growing for five years, from a tiny seedling. I only planted it out in fall 2014, and it wintered over fine, grew a lot this summer, and got some nice fall color, too!

He made as if to browse a tip, a tip that might just have a camellia like flower next spring, that is if he doesn't browse it off. EEEEP!!! I considered tapping on the window, but that seemed so crass. 

I sent him my best nonononono telepathy, and he dropped his head and ate some spicy creeping Charlie instead.  Just messin' wit ya.  Oh, the curl and sweep of those antlers. How I'd love to find them, cast off, in February. I'd know them in an instant.

What was really cool about this whole exchange was that I was pretty sure he could see me, standing just inside the studio window. He looked at me, and right into my soul. I could see the small scar on the underside of his left antler beam. 

If you would please throw some more millet and sunflower and corn on the ground, I would definitely leave your tree alone. Maybe you could buy some cracked corn like you did last year. I like cracked corn. 

I used to come here in the daytime a lot last year, but you wouldn't have known it was me.  I'd come out in the daytime this year, too, if you'd leave me snacks. 

 I also very much appreciate this heated dish you put out for me not long ago. I liked it last winter, too.  I'm the one who's been drinking it down in the dark. It's going to be especially nice when everything else freezes up.

My inner chimp was pant-hooting, seeing this magnificent beast ambling around the side yard as if he owned the place, at 3:30 in the afternoon on December 11. We've lived here since 1992, and I've never had a big buck do this. Ever.

He made a thrillingly close pass, and looked me right in the eye as he came by.

So. We understand each other? Your part: Corn.  Fresh clean water. Apples, maybe. 

My part: Daytime visits, thrilling you with my antlertude. At least until they fall off. 

Oh, and thank you for the sanctuary in the holler to the west. I may be young, but I'm not stupid. I found a  good place to hide last week.

And off he walked, leaving me breathless and grinning like a fool. 
I texted Liam on my way to the car. I'd be about 10 minutes late.

 He understood. He's been  
my boy for 16 years.

Next: Bucky, I believe we've met before...


Happy for you Julie. You got some great shots. Plus you got to spend some time with him. What a thrill!

Lovely! My bet is that he was fawned (?fawned? like foaled?) right on your 80 sweet acres, some little doe who knew where Sanctuary could be found and passed that knowledge on to her little buck. <3 Kindness never fall on fallow ground.

Posted by Gail Spratley December 14, 2015 at 7:50 PM

It's just plain fun, Julie, reading one of your posts.
I hope the buck does visit again, and that you see him, get more photos and post again.

Kinda funny, I live in a more 'city-fied' environ than you but deer are everywhere, and gotten use to humans; have encounters like this a lot. The antlered bucks are indeed mesmerizing in their up-close majesty, and OMG the fawns are pure cute overload! Pity they have so little habitat left here to avoid we humans... or our cars :-(

I love the photos- what great shots you got. And those moments of meeting we have with the critters are always deeply thrilling. Hope he comes back for a visit again (and avoids the Stewartia).

I see them often ( I feed them corn & mineral rock) but every bucks a thrill. Pretty boy!

Ah, sheer bliss!

hunting.... ehhhh....deer here seem to know that there's no shooting close to the
houses. Next they will be inside the homes ... ate all the flowers off my pansies :(
but I just bought some more.

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