Wednesday, October 23, 2013

August 2013: Deer Glowing Behind the Beaver Dam

I was sitting on the ridge waiting for the beavers to come out, when I saw a deer browsing along the far end of the beaver dam getting her nose down into the delicate floating vines just behind the dam.

Deer are fat with beauty in August. There is too much to eat and their fur blushes over their supple muscles.

She waded out in the pond and I spotted the bobbing nose of another deer, and yet another deer came over the dam into the pond.

A buck raised his head and his antlers under wraps until rutting season. Meanwhile the browsing doe was herself browsed by some attacking insects.

She stepped back, twitching, muscles bulging. The video I took confirmed the impression I got that she was bigger and probably stronger than the buck. And did they bump noses briefly? Perhaps he is her son, not a potential mate.

I focused on the buck as he coolly stepped where the doe had been and then he recoiled from the insects without losing his cool. Bucks are more prone to stand their ground.

It’s easy focusing on a buck. His antler is a lightning rod for metaphors best avoided.

There’s nothing remarkable about seeing bucks anywhere now. Last July I saw three in the front yard of my father-in-law’s house in suburban Philadelphia around nine o‘clock at night.

But there is something about a beaver pond that seems to bring antlers down to earth and enhance the beauty of all deer, especially in August.

The ponds are more or less the low points in the deer’s world.

The hunters tell me that the deer know when it’s hunting season so perhaps the deer enjoy the ponds in the summer because they know they can’t be shot at. But the ponds are also shallow then and the deer can wade out and get some wet vegetables just at the time when plants on the hills begin to dry out.

Because of hunting which lasts 3 months in the fall in most of the state park (quieter bow hunters usually), I don’t track deer. I’d hate to make them feel like they are being hunted all year. I just bump into them and ask how they are doing.

Deer are too sensitive for their own good. Their eyes are big; their nose too; and their ears are huge and flexible. Such awareness might make them skittish and prone to run, but instead, especially in the woods, they seem to use their senses to double check the danger with a long look, smell and listen.

Running in the woods is often their downfall. Almost every winter I will find a full grown deer dead on the down slope of a wooded valley, probably because coyotes chased it and it slipped.

But August is not the time to talk about dead deer. They are radiant in August. I think deer should be made America’s sacred cow and August the holy month to worship them before they get their dull brown but more serviceable winter coat.

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