Deer know when it's time to skedaddle

Deer-hunting season has started. I know, because of the complete and total absence of deer. The herd of seven that have been snacking on my saplings, my garden and my lawn every morning and evening for the last 11 months have disappeared to who knows where.

For every tree and bush I cage, there are three that go missing. I don’t care what people say – there is nothing that deer won’t eat.

“Rhododendrons! The leaves are poisonous, and the deer won’t touch them.” They touched mine right down to the ground. It also seemed to increase their fertility.

“Human hair. Ask your barber for all the hair he clips and hang it in nylon bags around your property.” The deer ate the hair and the bags.

“Kitty litter. Spread it around your garden.” I think it attracts them. My herd grew by three.

For 11 months, I yell at deer from my back porch. No more than 30 feet away, they ignore me. “Oh, it’s him again. Just keep eating,” they tell one another.

Now they are gone, not to be seen again until hunting season ends. Then they will make up for lost time, stripping the bark from my trees and munching every living, expensive thing that is not indoors.

I know it’s hunting season because of the random and uncomfortably close bangs and pops I hear while working in the yard. Some days I feel as if I’m living next door to a Civil War re-enactment – not a skirmish, but a huge battle, a Shiloh, a Gettysburg. I wonder what all the shooting is about, because the only deer still here must be the very few that are deaf. All the others have gone south for the winter.

I could understand hearing one shot every now and then. You have sighted your prey, you have waited patiently, you have brought down your prize with a single shot. What puzzles me are the other 16 shots. OK, you missed the first time and the deer bolted. It is no longer standing still. So what are you shooting at? A running, jumping deer in the middle of a forest? Good luck with that; you’ll need it.

There’s yet another reason I know that it’s hunting season: the list of gun-related “accidents” in the paper.

“What a terrible accident. If only he hadn’t drunk a six-pack for breakfast.” If only the shotgun hadn’t been loaded when he pulled it out of the trunk, barrel first. If only she hadn’t been outside hanging clothes on the line on opening day. If only they hadn’t let the black standard poodle out to do its business. If only their cows had been painted safety orange. If only he hadn’t dressed in deerskin and antlers. The list goes on and on and on. But the results are all pretty predictable.

Calling them “accidents” is like saying the new baby was “unplanned.” Really? Think hard – was there nothing that could have been done to prevent that?

I also know it is deer season from all the strange cars going down my road at 6 mph. They are looking for a spot to hunt. The local guys already know where to hunt. These clowns are from out of state or from the city. The polite ones will stop by the house and say: “Is Bob here? He’s a friend of mine, and he always lets me hunt down on the flats.” Bob hasn’t lived in this house for 15 years. You’d think his friends would know that.

I know it’s deer season because I saw a car at the gas station today with a big buck strapped to the roof, headed off to the cut-up place and the taxidermist. I asked the guy, who was pumping gas still wearing camo and a safety orange vest, where he bagged it. He pointed to the front of his car, all smashed and dented. It looked like he’d been doing about 45 when he hit it.

Jim Mullen’s new book, “Now in Paperback,” is now in paperback. You can reach him at

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