I felt a bit of nostalgia last week. It was the night I observed Daisy deer bedded down with a four-point buck in our south pasture. Somehow, in that moment, all of the world just seemed right. These were two young deer possibly experiencing their first rutting adventure. At least for Daisy, I was certain, it was her first mating season. Only a year ago, she was just a young fawn, penned up with Holly, an injured deer who had been hit by a pickup truck. We waited to free them until after hunting season ended on January 15th of this year. For different reasons (Daisy being too young, Holly being too injured), both of them had missed out on last year’s rutting season.
As I observed Daisy more closely this fall, I began wondering if her mating season could be anything compared to my days as a young girl, experiencing love for the first time. Of course, us girls do tend to think along the lines of romance and love. But I wasn’t so sure deer had those inclinations at all… In fact, I was pretty sure this was a silly thought. Still, the two little silhouettes in the pasture looked very cute, like an illustration one might expect to find on the cover of a paperback, Harlequin romance novel. And this young buck, after all, was “tending” Daisy. Surely, I thought, he had a few gentleman-like qualities to offer my girl?
The next morning, I looked out to the pasture, but there was no sign of Daisy and her beau. I let the dogs out to do their morning business, and walked around a bit, checking Daisy’s usual haunts, but saw nothing of her or the young buck. Once in the house, I made a cup of coffee and sat at the computer to begin writing the post, “My Quest to Understand the Whitetail Deer Rut… A Deer Mother’s Journey“. I wanted to gain a greater understanding of the rut in order to better inform my readers about some of the Whitetail deer’s tendencies and habits during the mating season. As I composed my newest blog entry, I was excited to post photos and tell everyone about the activity I had witnessed the day before.
I was making my second cup of coffee and nibbling on some leftover cornbread when I looked out the back door and saw the two little button bucks that I have mentioned before. They were both eating deer chow and corn at the feeders below the slope. We often see Daisy with these two fawns during the evening hours and, I am quite sure, one of them is the little fellow Daisy baby sat so many times this summer. It always warmed my heart to see this and know that Daisy was finally fitting in with a small herd.
Doe Scarlet, a very dominant doe with twins, often hoofed at Daisy, but did allow Daisy to be with her fawns. Another doe that sometimes accompanied Scarlet, had a single fawn and was usually friendly with Daisy as well. Over the summer and early fall, this was Daisy’s little tribe. Daisy had found a place in the hierarchy of this small “herd”. She was good with all three fawns, though occasionally she lifted a hoof to ward them away from the feed dish. And the young ones always complied. After all, Daisy was a little bigger than they were!
After seeing the two button bucks at the feeding station, I stepped out on the back porch with the camera, zoom lens attached. Now being accustomed to our coming and going in the back yard, the two little bucks did not run off. I stayed on the porch, tucked into a corner, and sheltered myself from the cold, biting breeze that was blowing out of the north. I had only snapped a couple of photographs when I saw both of the button bucks startle, high-tail it off a little way, and stop to look back my direction. Then, they seemed to relax and slowly meandered back to the feeding area.
Though one young buck fawn went about eating again, the other cautiously stomped towards something that had caught his attention up top, to the right of me. I did not see anything at first, but then suddenly noticed Daisy just around the other side of the fence. She had approached so quietly that I had not heard her. Daisy stared down at her little buddies with a definite aggressive look about her. Ears back and standing tall at the top of the slope, she looked a little intimidating. The little buck continued to stomp towards her cautiously. But Daisy appeared to be in a foul mood and did not even seem to notice me. I found this very strange.
Daisy finally proceeded down the hill at a slow pace, and as she reached the feeders, the two little button bucks backed off a bit. One chose to feed at the more distant feeder, but the other, smaller one, stayed near Daisy, which was normal. About that time, my attention was interrupted by a series of deep, low grunts one might expect to hear from a hungry, old boar pig. Looking toward the sound coming from my right at the top of the slope, I spotted the young four-point buck – Daisy’s suitor.
For a brief moment, the rutting buck stood regally at the crest of the slope, appraising the situation below. After seeing Daisy, it didn’t take him long to saunter down the hill, still grunting. As he walked, I noticed he carried his head down a bit, level with his body. And, it was apparent as he reached the group, he was in no mood to share his girl with either of the button bucks.
Daisy had begun eating alone at the corn feeder. The larger button buck had backed off a bit, but the smaller one seemed interested in Daisy’s beau. He tried, unsuccessfully, to sniff the big buck. Head down and charging a bit, the four-point chased the youngster off. Curiosity getting the best of him, the button buck came back again, but this time the big boy had no patience and took off after the little guy, antlers down!
About that time, I noticed Daisy getting irritated with the other button buck. Twice I observed her hoof at the little guy, and not in a gentle way like she usually did. This time, Daisy meant business! Finally, she took off after the little fellow and chased him a little ways into the woods. I watched her turn back when she felt she had sufficiently run him off.
Daisy then went back to the feeder, as her beau watched from a short distance. Occasionally, he checked the surrounding area to make sure the little button bucks had not come back. He looked all around, but most of the time his eyes were focused on Daisy. He waited…. and waited… AND WAITED. Daisy seemed to be loitering at the feeder much longer than usual. Even I was tired, standing at my perch on the porch, but I was not about to leave. I was hopeful for more interesting photos.
Finally, the four-point made an attempt to move closer to the object of his desire. He moved slowly at first, but Daisy was no fool. She pretended not to see him. She continued to feed at the bucket, but was secretly watching him. Soon, he got a little too close for her comfort, and she darted to the left. He countered the move like a fine cutting horse, so she circled around quickly and headed to the right… he did too! The next trip to the left, Daisy picked up pace and so did the buck. For just a minute, I could no longer see where Daisy was, but I could still see the buck was watching her. Soon, I saw Daisy heading up the hill to the left, to a sitting bench we have up top that looks out over the canyon. The buck was still down below, looking as if he was trying to decide whether to come up top or not. And that is when he spotted me. I had stepped to another area of the porch to get a better look at Daisy and he spotted my movement. At this, he took off running to the south where I eventually lost sight of him.
By this point, Daisy was exhausted. She quickly found a place to bed down behind our swimming pool, near the privacy fence. It is a protected area that she often found shelter in on windy, summer days, offering nice shade where the wind and sun is broken by the fence. Here, I offered her an apple – which she ate. But mostly, she was exhausted. She spent the entire afternoon resting, moving only once to find new shade as the sun ventured across the afternoon sky. I felt good knowing my girl was safe. She knew the area where the “deer people” lived was safe for her. It had always been a place of safety and shelter.
Finally that evening, Daisy got up and went down below to feed and get a little water. I went down with her to pet and brush her, and checked under her tail. Now, her vaginal area was only slightly swelled. I had seen it much more swelled the days before. Why was that buck still following her, I wondered? I petted her for a bit, and then went up to the house to fetch an apple. But when I came back outside, she had disappeared. I had not seen the buck all day, but that was no assurance he was not nearby, watching…
Daisy was gone for the next two days. I had a feeling that buck was not finished chasing her, and my suspicions were confirmed when, a couple of days later, our next-door neighbor reported Daisy had spent the night in his backyard. The neighbor had spotted her the evening before, and realized the next morning she was still there. He was quite pleased that she had even let him pet her during her visit. A neighbor lady further down the road was elated to see Daisy in her backyard late one afternoon. Daisy was receptive to her. She also managed some funny photos of the four-point buck peering up from the slope at the edge of their backyard, still keeping an eye on his girl.
I suppose I am a bit delighted that Daisy seems to know that in some way, the “deer people”, at least in this neck of the woods, can offer her safety and refuge. She is familiar with the territory she roams, and I have known her to find comfort in the area she grew up in on the outskirts of town. She has often sought shelter in FD’s mother’s back yard, resting in the ivy around her house, hidden in the trees, watching traffic and people walking on the street nearby. She has found respite and shade in the woods along the alley road and at the neighbors along the distant pecan orchard. She has often bedded down at night near the blackberry bushes, watching the street, our property, and the woods, all under the twinkling stars. After all, as a little fawn, her deer pen looked out towards the distant street, over the pastures, our house, and to the woods beyond. Daisy does not trust all people, but she seems familiar with our immediate neighbors and the general activity in the area. I worried all of these days she had been missing, that perhaps that buck had chased her miles from here, to unfamiliar territory. When, all this time, she was just next door and a little way past the pecan orchard to the north.
I needed not to worry so much. Daisy has shown me a great deal about her capability of surviving on her own in the wild. On her own, she found a way to fit in with a little herd. And now, she has managed to tap into the safety the “deer people” have to offer to gain respite and quiet. What a clever, adaptable girl she has become! Perhaps she will teach these strengths to her little fawns in the years to come.
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