Arguing, Sparring and Fighting

I was busy cleaning up the back porch one cool October morning, when I happened to notice some activity down in the canyon. Daisy deer and her fawn Spirit had been at the feeders earlier that morning, and I had seen them leave, heading west on our property into the thicker part of the woods. Now I could see her orange collar moving in the distance as she appeared to be dodging another deer. It was Scarlet, a large doe who is a regular visitor to our feeders, and she was giving Daisy some trouble.

Six-Point buck wants in on the corn.
Six-Point buck wants in on the corn.
The sparring begins!
The sparring begins!

Two Bucks Sparring

From the time we released Daisy into the wild, we observed her attempts to find company with other deer and fit into the herd. Always, she was hoofed off by older does, and even fawns and yearlings her own age seemed to oust her from their group. That first summer, finally, Daisy was able to find company with three spotted fawns. A set of twins that belonged to Scarlet and another fawn belonging to a doe I was not familiar with and rarely saw, seemed to enjoy being with Daisy. Apparently the mother does trusted Daisy to “babysit” their young.

I often saw Daisy and the fawns lazing in the shade near the water tub on hot days. The fawns dozed heavily in the afternoon warmth, while Daisy kept watch. In the evenings, Scarlet seemed not to mind Daisy tagging along with her and the twins, as long as she did not get too close. When that did happen, Scarlet’s slashing hooves came after Daisy with a vengeance. It was hard for me to watch, but I knew this was the world Daisy belonged to now, and that she must learn the ropes of hierarchy and dominance.

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So on this October morning, I stuck around to watch Daisy and Scarlet carry on with some type of dominance ritual again. As usual, Daisy would side-step Scarlet, but she did not back off. She stood her ground. Then suddenly, they both rose up on their hind legs at the same time and went to battle with front hooves hitting and clacking in a ferocious manner! I felt both pride and astonishment as I watched. I could not say how long the clubbing match lasted – maybe ten or more seconds, maybe less. Daisy, being smaller, was backing away, still on her hind legs, but she did not give up the battle.  Then, just as suddenly as it had begun, it was over, and they both dropped down and resumed normal grazing activity – as if nothing had happened! Scarlet eventually walked into the woods and Daisy made her way to the feeders.

This video is not of Daisy and Scarlet sparring, but is very similar to what I witnessed that morning. This video courtesy of thehump07 on YouTube.

Spirit had been watching the battle from about thirty feet away, and soon joined Daisy and I at the feeders, where I checked Daisy over for any wounds or marks. Amazingly, I found no visible injury resulting from the face to face combat I had just witnessed. More than anything, I was flabbergasted to see that does took part in sparring. I had seen plenty of photos of males sparring, either during the pre-rut season or the more aggressive sparring that happens over dominance and territory when the rut is in full swing.  I felt quite certain with Daisy and Scarlet, the issue was to prove who was dominant. I am not sure who won. Daisy did the backing up while hoofing because she is smaller in size, but she did not walk off like Scarlet did. They had both gone down at the same time – just as they had both risen to the sparring match at the same moment. Perhaps it was just an exercise match to hone sparring skills. Maybe it wasn’t about winning at all.

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One morning recently, I observed two young bucks down at the corn feeder. One was a six-point and the other was the seven-point buck we had been seeing around here since October. It was the six-point that kept poking antlers at the seven-point buck. Round and around they went, gently sparring in the early morning daylight. My first photographs were a little grainy from the dim light. But my later photographs were much clearer, due to the rising sun, and my ability to sneak closer to the action! The two bucks were so engrossed in their sparring they did not notice me coming over the top of the slope. I squatted down, knowing I would probably send them running if I came any closer. Finally, the six-point appeared to give up the dance over rights to the corn, and turned to leave.

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As I looked over the photos I had managed, of these two bucks tussling over food, I thought of the many times we humans argue, spar and fight. I thought of the arguing, sparring and fighting that had occurred in my own life. Unlike Daisy and Scarlet, who seemed to walk away without anger or hurt feelings, I often carried my battles with me, not forgetting the outcome. This brought to mind the Eckhart Tolle teaching, “The Duck With a Human Mind”.

This story illustrates the uniquely human ability to cling to the past by holding on to our stories.

When two ducks get into a fight, it never lasts long – they soon separate and fly off in opposite directions. Each duck then flaps its wings vigorously several times. This releases the surplus energy that built up in him during the fight. After they flap their wings, they fly on peacefully as if nothing had ever happened.

Now, if the duck had a human mind, this scene would go very differently. The duck may fly away peacefully, for a moment, but he would not put the fight behind him. He would keep the fight alive in his mind, by thinking and story-making.

The duck’s story would probably go something like this: “I can’t believe what he just did! He came within five inches of me. He has no consideration for my private space. He thinks he owns this pond. I’ll never trust him again. I know he’s already plotting something else to annoy me with. But I’m not going to stand for it! I’m going to teach him a lesson he will never forget.”

And in this way the duck’s mind spins its tale, still thinking and talking about it, days, months, or even years later. He may never see his adversary again, but that doesn’t matter. The single incident has left its impression and now has a life of its own deep within the duck’s mind.

As far as his body is concerned, the fight is still continuing, and the energy his body generates in response to the imaginary fight is emotion, which in turn generates more thinking. This becomes the emotional thinking of the ego. The emotions feed the story and the story feeds the emotions. Endlessly. Unless the duck chooses to recognize that the fight is over, unless he drops the story, he will suffer from the endless cycle of his mind’s creation.

You can see how painful and troublesome the duck’s life would become if he had a human mind. But this is how most of us live all the time. For the average person, no situation or event is ever really over and done with. The mind and the mind-made story keep it going. Unlike the duck, we are a species that has the power to remember, which is both wonderful and problematic.

Our duck has an important lesson to teach us and his message is this: Flap your wings, which means “let go of the story,” and live your real life – here and now, in the present moment. ~Eckhart Tolle

Happy and Lucky ducks never got into a fight!
Happy and Lucky ducks never got into a fight. They were simply happy to live in the moment, grazing in the yard and swimming in the old bath tub!

© Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…


55 thoughts on “Arguing, Sparring and Fighting

    1. Oh, thank you so much Alan. The deer of the woodlands are beautiful and I am very happy that they allow me to be somewhat near them with my camera. It has taken three years of patience, but finally they are not afraid of our presence in the woodlands. It is an amazing feeling to share time with them. ~Lori

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  1. Lori, your post was lovely as always, but I really enjoyed seeing that fat little squirrel who was watching the sparing so intently. Too cute!

    I am so guilty of reliving the anger/fear of past incidents. It truly is amazing how strongly we can react (tension, adrenaline surge, tears and anger) over things that happened long ago…

    Maybe if I had done this, or said that or, or, or…?

    And I must agree with Eckhart Tolle, it be wonderful to be like the duck and just flap our wings, shake it off, and go on with our lives.

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    1. Thank you, Lynda. I think I would be cognizant of Eckhart’s duck story each time I saw your geese, chickens and guinea’s! What a wonderful message nature presents to us, and often. I hope that the mountain farmlet will be the place of constant calming and gentle nudges to leave the past behind. It will be a place of great healing. Yes, I love these little squirrels down below. They are often in the background of many of my shots. They’ve got it made down there… free corn and deer chow, lots of chasing in trees and lovely knot holes and hidy places for little rapscallions!!

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  2. Great post and the pics are so good. Enjoyed your lovely account of the deer “fight.” A very nice comparison of the dear to Eckhart Tolle’s philosophy. I am one that just can not turn loose of past failures and stupid mistakes. I need to bone up on Mr Tolle’s thoughts again.

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    1. Yvonne, I believe the duck story came from Eckhart Tolle’s book, “A NewEarth: Awakening to Life’s Purpose”. All of his books have been helpful for me to live in the moment. I think I liked, “The Power of Now” best. And, I tend to consider that nothing is a failure or a mistake if we learned something from the experience. Often it helps us understand who we are… and sometimes who we are not!! 😀

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        1. You are welcome, Yvonne! Most of the time I enjoy books about animals (even children’s and young adult’s books regarding animals or nature) but occasionally a good “self help” book draws me in. I really enjoy Eckhart Tolle’s modern day philosophy. Refreshing.

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  3. Hi Lori, how are you doing? I’ve been looking forward to a new post. The deers a such pretty creatures and I’ve often been surprised to see sparing animals stop so suddenly. As for animals thinking like humans, poor things. I suffered from episodes of depression for many years, but cognitive therapy has given me a new lease on life. I hadn’t realized that our thoughts create our emotions and not the other way round as Eckhart’s story shows and so many of your stories too 🙂

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    1. Henrietta, that is what I love about so many different perspectives shared via blogging. Often I find someone makes an observation that I never thought of. I am learning all of the time. The story of the duck stuck with me the very first time I read it. It seemed so bizarre that an animal should think as we do… yet we seem to accept how we react to events and what we create as a result. Oh, and you know I have blog posts in my mind every single day with hundreds of photos to recall. I simply must make more time to write. I enjoy it so much!

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  4. I like the duck analogy. Earl releases his stress by yawning widely. I wish I had a valve like that. I tend to keep my stress inside me and it festers. A very wise post and something for me to ruminate on over the coming week. Cheers for sharing Lori 🙂

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    1. Thanks Fran! I’m like you, and is it any wonder we do all of the work that we do around our places… physically working off the stress? It is a good coping skill, yet I think nature deals with it much better than we do, and they tend to enjoy life so much more!

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      1. I think I might have to start flapping my wings to release stress…if I start waving my arms around I figure I will release stress and terrify my stressor so that would be a win-win situation! 😉

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        1. I hope you don’t have wings Fran! You know that isn’t a good sign at our age if our arms flap! Besides, I think momentum like that would just get Earl excited and he’d tackle you or something.

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          1. Sadly I do have a bit of wing thanks to my big weight loss but I figure I won’t get thrown overboard should a group of us get marooned as I can be used as a windsail to save us all ;). Steve says that he has his lifesavers so he is safe…now it is up to the rest of you to justify your spot on the boat 😉 (see…”wings” are GOOD! 😉 )

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          2. Goodness Fran! Now you’ve given me something to think about today! What would my role be on the boat? I’m good at cleaning up messes (connecting with my inner vulture) and not afraid to get after a great mess in the kitchen. Bathrooms… not so sure about that now. I should think there would be rules about good hygiene and such? LOL What kind of boat is this anyway? I have to have more information!! LOL

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          3. Being able to problem solve and plan would be right up there with my “wings” and Steve’s lifesavers certificate so I think we are all safe…now we just need someone else to throw overboard! 😉

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          4. Maybe we can take a token “throwee” with us and just let them splash around in the shallow water as a sort of mini sacrifice? Sounds like a plan to me, a win-win for everyone 😉

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  5. Hi Sundog,

    As usual these are great pictures and a great piece of writing and because of my tendency to “anthropomorphize” the deer and other living creatures; I in turn, have taken something different away from this story that may not ever come from a rational person (GRIN)! Wow, is that one heckuva run-on sentence or what? Anyway, your story has compelled me to speak of the “male vs. female” dynamic. I TRULY believe that the more women we have in positions of political power; the more peaceful our world will be. Women are compromisers; men are stupidly driven by testosterone and macho BS. Women make peace – men puff up their arrogant, know-it-all chests and dictate policy. Look at our current crisis in health care for women – why do old, closed-minded males make all the legislative decisions for women’s health care, when it should be a decision made by women and their doctors? Their paternalism reeks of the 1950s school of thought that women should just sit there and be pretty while us guys make the rules. It is way past time to join the 20th century, especially since we are in the 21st, and realize that women are intelligent, articulate, and able to make decisions.

    That leads me to express my attraction to intelligence all of my life. I’ll even add that “intelligence,” to me, is the world’s strongest aphrodisiac. When I was a child, my best friends were most often girls because they did not beat on me and fight and such. My conversations with girls stimulated thought much more than testosterone fueled arguments with the guys. I will end this interesting take on things with Kristen, my wife of 41 years this coming Monday, and how much I appreciate and value her intelligence and that we maintain an egalitarian relationship that is beautiful and fulfilling. Our decisions are made together with deference to the person with the best knowledge base on whatever we are deciding. People think differently and have different “intelligences.” For instance, maps, graphs, charts, and even math is my strong suit; Kristen is an administrative genius and a superlative writer like my pal L. Sundog.

    Did this start with deer relations? NAW, impossible!

    Louis

    P.S. I love the word “anthropomorphize” that I used above. I got it from a cartoon that was taped to a computer desk saying “don’t anthropomorphize computers, they don’t like it!

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    1. Louis, I admit I had to look up the word “anthropomorphize”! We are always learning, eh? Thanks for sharing your interesting perspective. Again, as I mentioned to Henrietta Richer in her comment, I find other’s perspectives fascinating. We are all such varied individuals, and each has a gift to share.

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        1. I do take a certain amount of pride in being NOT NORMAL. How boring would that be. You should hear me when I get to talking in stream of consciousness mode. I’ve gotten a few blank stares on that and IT IS FUN!

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    1. Thanks Linda! Now if I could capture photos of the night life around here! We have been seeing Daisy and Spirit, Scarlet and her twins, two mature does, and four bucks!

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    1. Ha ha! Sandy, I’m afraid if I had antlers it could be a bad thing!! I choose wings… at least we can fly sometimes and I think that would be really awesome! Why, you could fly south for the winter! YAY!

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  6. What a great tale. It took me years to work this out.

    My first relationship ended on a bad note, and I hurt him badly without realising it at the time. I spent nearly 4 years feeling awful and guilty and wondering how I could have made things better, or made things up. I tried to, but could never quite say what I wanted to say. And when I finally did, if only to say sorry, I realised he really wasn’t that bothered, and that I was now continuing to feel guilty without any need. At that moment, when I realised he didn’t care about it anymore, the guilt and sadness literally vanished within moments, and I felt like a huge weight had been lifted. And I have never thought of him since – or if I have, it has been about the good times we shared, not how we broke up.

    Now, I don’t hold onto the bad things or hold grudges, because what is the point? Events very rarely mean the same to someone else as they do to you, so why let you punish yourself over it?

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    1. What a candid and honest life story of holding onto emotions that are not productive! I wish I had learned that when I was younger. I still struggle at times, but having spent decades festering and hurting because I could not let go, finally wore me down emotionally and physically. Truthfully, had it not been that year raising Daisy that I was so worn to a frazzle, yet trying to mother a little deer who had a quiet and “in the moment” way of living, I think I would still be in that hole of anger and disappointment. Isn’t it wonderful that you are better able to cope with difficulties and not hang on to the misery or hold grudges? And what a great thought, to reflect on the other side of the situation… what might be your experience may not be anything similar to what another may perceive! Great comment Rachel!

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  7. Maybe the female deer sparring is just their version of kids playing patty-cake or something like that. I’ve seen deer playing often, and I think you’ve also written about that here, so we know they DO play, just for the sake of playing. Interesting discovery though. You live so closely with the deer and yet there’s always something new to learn.
    I also liked the Eckhart Tolle story, although I don’t agree with his assertion that other species can’t remember things. I’ve seen far too much proof that animals have surprising memories. But I do agree that we humans would be much happier if we could let go of some things that we tend to stew over. I’m waiting for someone to invent a way to erase our bad memories, lol.
    Loved the photos, as always. Good food for thought. 🙂

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    1. Thank you Kim. I think these two bucks were just mildly asserting dominance. I’ve seen Daisy do the same. I agree with you too that sometimes it is play, and I think play helps them develop the skills they later need for survival. I’ve seen Daisy do that with Spirit. I know also that animals and birds remember more than we think they do. I’m not sure why people believe otherwise except maybe for scientific reasons. I observe and that is how I form my opinions.

      My issues come from expectation (projection) and past happenings… it would be good to let go of both. It is difficult to live in the moment because of a life of conditioning to be otherwise. However, I do know when I spent so much time with Daisy that first year she was on her own, I observed her quietness and alertness… in the now. It was amazing that while I was with her I thought of nothing else. Not the anger and hurt of the past, not the work that I still needed to do – only that moment with her. What bliss.

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  8. What a fabulous and thought provoking post Lori. “Letting go” is a magical experience that opens us to fully embracing the next moment, but it’s one that is sometimes hard to do. This post is a great reminder for me as I begin my day. Thanks for that, a great story, and wonderful photos that put all of us right there watching the encounter.

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    1. Thank you so much, Rick. I find inspirational reminders at the start of a day a very good way to set the pace. Embracing the moment is hard to do… and I find myself needing “reminders” often!

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      1. You said: “Embracing the moment is hard to do” and that is even more true when I am stressed (a condition that is pandemic in this fast-paced world). With that said, I can be out running errands and my mind is full of stress, but when I arrive at my home (actually when I arrive at the dirt road that leads to my home), quite often that stress just melts away as I take in the beauty of my surroundings. This is a self-taught stress reducer that is now almost automatic.

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  9. Flap your wings, or forever be met with the horns… I’ll try more flapping 🙂 . Beautiful post, Big Sister, I love the duck vs human analogy; I might just have to borrow that book! Also, love the pictures off all the deer, and the ducks bring back warm memories :-).

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    1. Aw, you know you’re welcome here any time and my library is your library! I’m not sure you realize how much you’ve helped me through the tough times, Baby Sister. Thank you for that… you never understood arguing, sparring and fighting – you were a peacemaker.

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  10. What do I like most about this post, Lori? Seriously, I can’t choose. The video, the photos of the bucks, the descriptions of Daisy and Scarlet and Spirit, your admission of holding on to the past (like I do), the Tolle story, the mallard photo…

    I miss the deer I used to commune with at the nature center, so I must get back there once we get back into normal temperature ranges. Brrr.

    I’m going to try to let go more, and this post is what will be my inspiration. Thanks, Lori!

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    1. Sid, I am so glad this post spoke to you. I think it will be a good thing for you to interact with nature again. I have found messages almost anywhere I walk down in the canyon. Spending time with Daisy healed a lot of my old wounds.

      I think it must be a real novelty for me to have witnessed Daisy and Scarlet in that hoofing match. That video was the only one I could find online between females. I think it is far more common with males. I can tell you I was one proud mama that day! Daisy might be a small deer, but you couldn’t tell it by her attitude! FD saw her hoof off a buck the other night. I didn’t realize does did that either. Watch and learn…

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    1. Ha ha! Yes, there is rarely a dull moment here. Just a bit ago I caught Daisy deer (lots of history on her if you care to look back at old posts) hoofing off a couple of younsters! Apparently the deer are feeding heavily this morning in the snow, and Daisy isn’t willing to share!

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