A little after 8:00 am yesterday morning, I glanced out the window, sweeping the area quickly as I’ve grown accustomed to doing and spotted something different. I almost peed my pants when I realized that a generously-endowed buck was laying in the lane between our chick house and fire pit. Holy shit.
Now, I don’t hunt. Never have; have no desire to start. But my husband does. And my father does, as well as every male within a 2 generation sweep of my (or Andrew’s) family tree. Hunting is and has always been a big part of my family’s culture; our Thanksgiving tradition, for example, involves a caravan of all the women to the hunting shack Up North, where the men have spiffied up the place and prepared the turkey banquet. (a pretty swell tradition, no?) And I eat venison, gratefully. Our sad lack of it in the freezer right now is making me feel a bit vulnerable, in a primal “must-prepare-for-the-winter” sort of way.
But the excitement of The Rut – the short window of time when all of the bucks, crazy and lovestruck and flooded with the does’ estrus pheromones, are driven into broad daylight to court – this has never been more than peripheral to me. I’ve never really gotten emotionally involved in any of it, short of a congratulatory pat on the back or the polite attention given to the animated story of how said deer was hunted. I’ve learned to look for deer in the fields everywhere, but I don’t recall ever seeing a buck (alive) until last weekend, while driving. (because they are elusive and careful, hidden in the swamps, except during The Rut)
So when I casually peered out my window and spotted this…magnificent… creature, I was completely unprepared for the flood of adrenaline that nearly toppled me over. I shrieked, then caught myself, because his acute hearing would probably pick it up, and scare him off. I ran to the phone to report it to Andrew, who had just walked into the office. And then I ran to shoot it, with my camera. Again and again, with hands shaking and disbelief in the witness of such majesty. I grasped at adjectives, trying to articulate what I was feeling, lamenting that the word “awesome” had nearly been used up. Because I was completely full of awe, so much so that I quickly ushered The Girl out to the bus stop, noting the pelting rain and sending her with an umbrella, identifying this as one of those character-building exercises she should start undertaking. I failed, however, to note her lack of mittens or hat or that the rain was mostly of the frozen kind, so when she came running back down the driveway in tears, we headed instead for a hot bath and some hot chocolate. She arrived at school admittedly late, but warmed to the core. Surely tardiness due to the sighting of a Big Buck in our own back yard is an excused absence?
I watched that buck for over an hour, shooting pictures left and right. I opened the windows of the house, lowering the screen to get a better shot, and spooked him into standing. (so close was he to the house, that the opening of a window caught his attention) He stood then, slowly moseyed around for a bit, but didn’t leave. I though the freezing rain, now turned to snow, might have played a part in that. But I’m an idiot. I watched him, waiting for him to finally bolt, and instead he entered the Sheep Garden and started munching on some broccoli. If you are what you eat, I thought, I want to eat Him, Who’s Eaten My Broccoli. But I digress. Moments later, a previously-unseen grey-brown form emerged, standing up in the far corner of the garden. A doe! A lovely, ready-to-mate, irresistible (to the buck) doe. Aha. She slowly scampered out of the garden and up the side hill, with the eager buck not far behind. Perhaps, as he had earlier sat in the lane, less than 20 yards from where she was herself laying, perhaps he serenaded her. Or quietly pleaded his case for mating, in a language that only deer can understand. (he was, after all, a strong impressive fellow) If so, I take great amusement in the fact that she just laid there, letting him blather on. She has style, that doe.