eyeshine

for some reason , fall is the time when deer are most active on my property. i like to think they’re smart enough to know that i’m a bleeding-heart sapsucker with quiet woods and zero tolerance for projectile weapons around my livestock, but it’s probably less intellectual than that. they’re probably just moving from the deep woods of the wilderness to the east, westward and down into the valley to the winter deer yards and i’m just a stop along the way. they spend a couple of weeks snoofing around the place, cleaning up some browse in the summer horse pastures, taking quick licks of the salt block in the winter pasture, and making the dogs crazed, then they move down the mountain when winter arrives in earnest.

the labrador and the minpin aren’t deer chasers, but they sure are deer borkers. what good would a quiet evening be without an interlude (or three) of letting the dogs out to do a pee and having the peace broken by maniacal borking? the first few times this happens in the fall, i run out with my headlamp, sure that there is an apocalyptic herd of huge, bloodthirsty predators bearing down upon the property, but no. a couple of stealthy deer hopping delicately into the tree line is the usual verdict. the dogs continue to bork like loons and i take the headlamp back into the house where it’s warm.

knowing the deer are around, i sometimes slip outside after dark without the dogs to see what they’re up to. it’s rare that i don’t pick up some gleaming green eyes in my headlamp’s beam. the deer look up at me, then go back to their browsing. it’s not a very exciting wildlife interaction, but it’s kinda nice. kinda peaceful.

a couple of nights ago, i went out quietly and saw green eyeball reflections down at the bottom of the summer pasture. as i shone the light on two small does, they moved closer. and closer. and closer! until they were in the yard, right next to the driveway! i could see them both clearly in my forehead beam and they were supremely unconcerned, even when they were definitely downwind of me and smelling my vile predator stink. they stayed close, munching around in a horse-designated rough (e.g., a big weedy pony toilet). the wind was thin and chilly and i didn’t stay out long, but as far as i know, they were still browsing after i left them alone.

i know that unscrupulous hunters “jack” deer by shining lights in their eyes and shooting them when they freeze, but i’d never heard that deer are especially attracted to light and certainly never experienced it myself in many years of my own benign “jacking”. i’m curious to see if these girls will repeat this odd behavior or whether i was merely on their nightly route and they weren’t that fussed about me being there and shining lights in their pointy grey faces. maybe they liked the ambient light that illuminated the weeds and lack of slavering minpins?

i will continue to run this investigation.