Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Encounters with Deer

This morning, Dog and I barely stepped out of the cabin for our morning walk before I saw the eyeshine of a deer in my headlamp. This wasn't either of the two fawns I've been seeing near this spot. It was an adult deer and might well have been the fawns' mother. We were downwind of the deer, so Dog was instantly on alert. Now is the white-tailed deer's rutting season, and deer are out traipsing around all over the place at all hours of the night. This deer took a few steps further up the lane, walking towards us, and then stopped again.

I kept walking, while Dog danced on his leash. The deer watched us approach for several steps more and then turned and headed back down the road. It took Dog a few minutes to settle down, and we continued our walk.

Futher along the trail, up in Roundtop's north parking lot, I saw eyeshine again, too far away and in a different direction to be the same deer. This time we were upwind of the deer, so Dog was oblivious to its presence. The deer just stood there watching us or perhaps scenting us, and I kept walking. Dog was still oblivious, even stopping to investigate a piece of paper or a candy wrapper he found on the ground. I kept walking. By this time we were getting pretty close to the deer, and it still stood there, and Dog still hadn't smelled it and was too busy nosing around to see it.

By now I was close enough to make out the outline of the deer in the pre-dawn darkness, and eventually our presence was too close for it. It bolted away, leaping over the inch-wide steel cable that serves to mark the parking lanes. I knew the cable was there but couldn't see it. The deer's eyes were keen enough to see it in the darkness. At this point Dog saw the deer but my hold on his leash kept him from bolting after it. I counted my steps from where I was to where the deer was when it bolted. We were just 14 steps from it, probably no more 10 yards, perhaps even a little less. Dog never did scent it, as far as I can tell. It was its escape that triggered his awareness of it. I came away impressed by the deer's eyesight and how closely it let us approach. And I was reminded once again how important wind direction is to a predator's abiilty to find prey.

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