Love is in the Air

I did not know what to think yesterday morning when I walked out to the front gate to unlock it and found Ronnie deer by himself on the north side of our house. Since it was still dark out, I scanned the property with my flashlight, but found no sign of his sister. While Emma was prone to taking off on her own, Ronnie was usually never far behind. I hoped Emma was nearby, and safe. But as I returned from the gate, I could see Ronnie, still by himself, at the top of the slope, looking down into the canyon. To me, he seemed to be looking for Emma.

When I mentioned to FD that I had discovered Ronnie alone this morning, he wondered if Emma and Ronnie might have tried to follow some visiting deer during the night and perhaps Ronnie, being a buck, was unwanted by the does and hoofed away. This made sense since the rut, or mating season for deer, could still be going on. As long as the bucks had their antlers they would be fertile, and if a doe did not achieve conception the first time she came into estrus, she would continue to have opportunity each month until the bucks lost their antlers. As many times as I watched poor Daisy get hoofed by the local deer – it was several months until she was even slightly accepted as an underling in the herd – it was difficult for me to think of Ronnie and Emma having to go through this as well.

Just an hour later, when I finished up breakfast and announced to FD that he had better come and get his egg scramble before it got cold, there was no acknowledgment that he heard me, nor was there any sign of him. “Where was that man?”, I wondered. After a second call to him, I got curious and began looking for him. I found him on the back porch motioning for me to come outside, but putting his index finger to his lips to indicate for me to be quiet. As I slipped through the screen door without a screen (thanks to Punkin the squirrel who tore it off two years ago), I could see FD was mouthing the word “BUCK” to me, and pointing down into the canyon. I quickly scanned the woodlands but saw nothing until, all of a sudden, I noticed Emma running lickety-split through the woods, with Ronnie trying to intercept her! But then hot on Emma’s trail was a magnificent seven or eight-point buck! About that time, the buck made a sudden dash towards Ronnie to run him off, while also keeping his eyes on the prize – Emma. Excited, I went back in the house for the camera, but on my return I realized getting action photos in the low light, with cold morning temperatures, was not likely to produce very good images. Why hadn’t I grabbed my iPhone for video instead? Arrgh!

Emma looks a little exasperated!
Emma looks a little exasperated!
What a lovely, tall set of antlers on this buck.
What a lovely, tall set of antlers on this buck.
I wonder if Ronnie knows what this chase is all about?
I wonder if Ronnie knows what this chase is all about?
The morning cold and low light made for this odd "panning" shot of the buck.
The morning cold and low light made for this odd “panning” shot of the buck.
Emma running from the buck while Ronnie gets caught in the fray (near the water tub).
Emma is running from the buck while Ronnie gets caught in the fray (Emma is near the water tub at the bottom left, and Ronnie is near the tree).
The buck is in pursuit of Emma.
The buck is in pursuit of Emma.
What a magnificent suitor!
What a magnificent suitor!

Finally, after several fast runs through the woodlands, Emma joined Ronnie up top on the rim of the slope, just off our back porch. I wondered if she felt safe near her “parents”. Maybe she knew the buck would be very reluctant to come near the house. As it was, it did not take long for the buck to spot FD and me, and he apparently wanted nothing to do with humans, so he made a tremendous leap over the neighbor’s fence to the north to hide in a thick snarl of woodlands and watch Emma from a distance. Finally, with a few giant leaps and a graceful jump over the fence and into the pecan orchard, Emma’s would-be suitor had all he wanted of human interference in his love life, and disappeared to the west.

After dancing round and around with Emma trying to get a look at her rear-end, I confirmed she was indeed slightly pink back there. Her time of estrus would not be far off. This certainly was not what I wanted for her. Conceiving this late in the rut would put Emma at birthing in August. Chances of survival of a late-season fawn are never good, and summer pregnancy takes a toll on the doe – as we had witnessed with Daisy’s first doe fawn, Spirit. Rather than being saddled with the responsibilities of motherhood as Spirit was, I wanted Emma to enjoy her next year of adventure and independence, to become a confident yearling, and take part in joining the local herd.

FD is just sure the big buck will be back. I am hoping today’s rain will keep Emma’s scent down, and I hope that, like last night, Emma and Ronnie will bed down up top in the pasture just beyond the yard. But of course there is still another problem… Ronnie has been following Emma around non-stop with his nose up her tail and doing the “lip curl“. It is possible, since Ronnie is a little buck with hard antlers, he could be fertile by now. If so, I am hoping he won’t be tall enough to do the job! Poor Emma! What’s a girl to do when love is in the air?

Ronnie Catching Emma Scent_8533 Ronnie Lip Curl_8525 Ronnie Lip Curl_8529

Ronnie detects Emma's scent to know if she is in estrus. The "lip curl" helps the buck expose the vomeronasal organ in the roof of his mouth. Air is sucked across the organ, which is so sensitive that it can pick up individual molecules of scent. This helps the buck analyze the scent for clues about the doe’s estrus stage.
Ronnie detects Emma’s scent to know if she is in estrus. The “lip curl” helps the buck expose the vomeronasal organ in the roof of his mouth. Air is sucked across the organ, which is so sensitive that it can pick up individual molecules of scent. This helps the buck analyze the scent for clues about the doe’s estrus stage.

© 2017 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…


26 thoughts on “Love is in the Air

  1. Oh my. those poor dear, deer. What a quandary for them as well as for their humans. Could you have waited a few more weeks to ensure all the bucks had shed their antlers but then what about Ronnie? Would he produce viable sperm as a yearling without full antlers?

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    1. Good questions. We believe Ronnie did produce viable sperm since he did have antlers and his neck did seem to thicken during that time. I am not sure he was tall enough to mount Emma appropriately. But now that she’s being pursued by this big buck, I am sure Ronnie did not manage to impregnate her or the new buck wouldn’t be interested.
      As it was, we kept Ronnie and Emma penned up about three weeks longer than we normally would have. Most bucks shed their antlers by March in this part of the country, and it would have been too long to keep the deer. For me, it was very difficult to watch them pace the fence each day, wanting to be free. It was worse on the days when I worked outside. They wanted to be with me.

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  2. Oh, goodness, it’s hard to keep the kids from getting ahead of themselves, isn’t it! Fascinating story Lori. I sure hope Emma can escape the male attention for a while yet. The photos are excellent, especially considering circumstances but I especially like that one of the buck with the blurred background!

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    1. That was my favorite image too, Ardys. I admit, most of my wildlife photography is done using the “sports action” setting. Often there is no time to fiddle with the settings when action is happening right in front of you!

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  3. No crude jokes from here. Earthy as I like to think I am, this description along with the pictures both chastens and instructs me. The richness of life in nature is amazing. The beauty too. And especially the subtle details and ways of knowing (e.get. the lip curl). You demonstrate how watching over from a distance allows us to grow in appreciation and even reverence without limiting (by over-cartaking) the lives of those we love. It makes me think about parenting. But also about relationships. And about God.

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      1. I sure did know what you meant! Albert, I am not sure what I would do without my two editors! FD, my husband, looks at my writing first, and then his sister (I refer to as Sissy Jo in my writing) does the second look-over. They are my care-takers! 😀

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    1. What a beautiful comment, Albert. You speak like a poet or philosopher of life! I have had many years of observing Daisy and I have learned more than I ever thought about. I still cannot believe my fortune to have witnessed so many unusual details in the life of whitetail deer. Now I am following Emma and Ronnie and my adventure begins anew. The same yet different. I embrace this very special gift to walk with the deer, and I hope I always do justice to them in telling their stories. It certainly makes me ponder the whole of the experience of life.

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      1. Hmmm. When the time comes for your book, maybe the title should be ‘Walk with the Deer’—in that little phrase you encapsulated for me your living with, but not for, them, your measured approach, and your good fortune in being able to be accepted right alongside these lovely creatures.
        xo,
        Kath

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        1. Thank you, Kath. It truly is a walk with the deer. I am doing so much better with these two than I did with Daisy. I worried and fretted, and felt as if I needed to continue “mothering” her and being her protector. But they truly are resilient, and even in the wild, Daisy has lost all but one of her young (out of eight fawns) and she was with them every bit of the time. I realize there is little I can do other than what I did for them while they were in the pen.
          I think I am the luckiest girl in the world that the deer allow me to walk in their world. 🙂

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  4. What a dilemma it must be for you knowing what the time of year brings with regards to outcome. It’s hard because of the bond you have with her. Hard not to consider her family and be protective. Shoot, I’d want to bring her back in again but then she doesn’t gain and experience the freedom she needs. Never easy being a parent, adoptive legally or of the heart. Love is in the air in multiple ways and is contributing to your level of mamma anxiety I’m sure. We’ll stay tuned. The photos are so wonderful. ❤

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    1. Ah, Paulette, you have nailed it. There is nothing easy about being any kind of parent to any living being. It is the hardest thing to accept that often we have no say or control. And yet, it is as it should be. There are no mistakes.

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