A summer evening in August, sitting in a deck chair, sipping a Diet Pepsi, eating a burger off the grill, talking with my husband and enjoying the smell of newly cut alfalfa - hey, what's that sound? Crunching. Munching. The deer invasion has begun again.
My husband was remarking tonight as the first doe stepped into our back yard that people in New York wouldn't know what to make of the abundant wildlife. I imagine he meant New York City (get a rope), because I'm sure upstate New York has its share of nuisance deer.
And I do mean nuisance. They're lovely to look at; in fact, I never truly get tired of the site of their graceful, red-brown, long-legged forms, sometimes with spots, sometimes with budding antlers. Visitors who live in the city (yes, I mean Spokane) usually get excited when we tell them there are deer right outside.
I remember when I was a little girl in small-town Lyle, Washington, going for a drive with my parents and sisters to "look for deer." It was one of my favorite things to do on a warm summer night. I doubt we went driving around looking for deer more than a handful of times, yet the memory is both clear and dear.
These days all I have to do to look for deer is glance outside the house most any time of day. Yesterday a doe and her fawn were under one of the apple trees. She was eating the fallen gravenstein apples while he napped. It was a lovely sight.
When I went to pick apples today, I couldn't walk underneath that tree without stepping into a pile of deer droppings. They look kind of like rabbit pellets, and they aren't very smelly, but I definitely don't want them tracked into my house. The lawn turns a nice shade of dark green wherever they've been dropped, but I don't dare go barefoot, and that's a hard thing to have to give up. Judging by the dark green spots all over our near-acre of lawn, we have had 5,000 deer visits this summer. That's approximate, of course.
The other day I looked out the front window and there, all alone among the flower beds, was a fawn. He was old enough to be up and running around, but I doubt his mamma would have approved his galavanting by himself. Fawns are normally told to stay hidden while their mothers are grazing. This little rebel wandered around the yard for a while, followed and tormented by two magpies. They used his butt as a trampoline, landing and bouncing off repeatedly. Wherever he went, they followed. Finally he got tired of the game and trotted back into the alfalfa field. He undoubtedly got a scolding when his mother found him. I was pleased to have this photo published in the Spokesman-Review's Valley Voice on Aug. 23.
Everyone who lives in deer territory knows how destructive they are to gardens, fruit trees, and ornamentals. I've suffered my share of devastation. I gave up trying to grow a garden without the seven-foot fence you'd need to keep them out. Sometimes we allow hunting on our property, although I think far more deer are killed on the nearby road than by hunters.
I do get frustrated when plants and crops are messed up by uninvited guests. But if I had to choose between a perfect, poop-free lawn and nibble-free yard or the privilege of seeing a constant parade of gorgeous wildlife, I'd take the deer. Fewer deer, for sure, but this is why we live in the country. I get to stay home and "look for deer" all I want.