Safer At Home

I should have expected Tukker, our newly released orphan deer, to incur a few wounds in his first weeks out in the wild. For orphaned youngsters like Tukker, it’s normal to see scratches from barbed wire fencing and a few hoof marks from being run off by some other fawn’s mother. However, Tukker’s barbed wire scratches were deep and ripped a lot of hair from his back.

One morning as I walked with him along the fence line of the leased property to the west, I realized why Tukker’s barbed wire wounds were so deep. Tukker wasn’t gently dipping under the fences like I had seen many deer do, including Daisy, Emma, and Ronnie. Instead, Tukker was jumping right through them, between two of the wires. Tukker always has had to be different from all the other deer we’ve raised, and crossing fences was obviously another thing he was determined to do his own way.

A couple of days later when I spotted him following three other deer along the old river channel, I felt some hope that maybe he could learn to jump fences the way normal deer do. I spooked up the group of four, heard one give the “huffing” alert and all four turned to run, jumping the fence to the leased property. I was just sure Tukker was one of the fawns I saw in the group. Maybe he could learn to cross fences properly and safely by observing his new friends.

On February 5th we saw four to five inches of snow in the area. Tukker was extra frisky that morning! Later in the day the sun came out and by the next morning nearly all of the snow had vanished!
A deer’s upper lip and gums allow them to deftly maneuver plant matter into their mouth to be cut by lower teeth. From there it is moved back to the molars for a few chomps and a quick swallow. Later, during the rumination process, or “chewing cud”, food returns from the first stomach to the mouth to be chewed for the second time. There are no top teeth. Here, Tukker greeted me on my way to do chicken chores, hoping for a few slices of apple or a carrot!
Tukker often hung around in the areas of the feeders down below the slope, waiting for his bachelor buddies (yearling bucks) to gather in the evenings.
A fella has to keep himself groomed you know.
Our neighbor’s dogs are kept in a fenced yard near his house. Tukker seems to know they can’t get to him. He tolerates their barking… and somehow I wonder if he enjoys taunting them. Sweet Boy and Bob Barker go crazy when Tukker is bedded down nearby.
Chase is a brother to Sweet Boy and Bob Barker. Chase isn’t quite as vocal as the other two.
There are a lot of good eats in this shaded area on the other side of the fence. Our yard is much too groomed to keep a hungry boy happy for very long.

But then just a week later, Tukker came home with an apparent puncture wound and missing hair on his right, rear flank.  Over the next few days, it became infected and rather angry-looking, so I cleaned it daily, but there was little else to do. Concerned the wound wasn’t healing, I conferred with Wildcare, a larger rehabilitation facility about an hour from here. The vet on staff looked at photos of the wound that I emailed to him and said, because of Tukker’s age and already being a little too frisky and wild to allow our local vet to examine him or deep clean the wound, he felt continuing to keep the wound clean, as we had been, was about all we could do. He was quite reassuring that the discoloration of the skin and the type of oozing coming from the wound was actually a good sign and part of the normal healing process.

As we continued to monitor Tukker via various game cameras on the property, we felt he had likely been gouged in play or possibly while being run off by another buck. The more we looked at the injury, the more it looked like an antler gouge. We had noticed Tukker hanging with a few yearling bucks at night down at the feeders, and sometimes saw him in the early morning daylight hours way down on the west end of the orchard, grazing and playing with other young deer.

A few weeks later, FD spotted him near the river while looking for antler sheds one morning. I felt especially good about this, knowing many deer traveled this area of the woods. Here, Tukker would be in good company and would have an excellent opportunity to learn the ways of his own kind. But apparently, the pull of suddenly finding your dad in the woods won over being with friends, and Tukker followed FD home that afternoon. And, for whatever reason, Tukker has been staying close to home ever since that day.

Tukker made friends with this young buck for a few weeks. Tukker showed him the crimson clover patch I keep around each year in hopes some of our kids and their friends return for a bit of nibbling.
Tukker knows he can see us through the kitchen window. He feels safe enough to doze there. And you should feel safe with your mama nearby!
There go my blackberry leaves. Deer (and all wildlife) love the berries too.
Tukker loves to sit atop the knoll off of the rim of the canyon in our neighbor’s backyard. Ms. Foxy can often be found sitting in the same location. Can you find Tukker in the photo?
Up closer near the rock house and behind the old deer pen, Tukker feasts on Quince leaves and flowers.
Our next-door neighbor has a woolly backyard. Tukker finds all sorts of good eats here.
Nap time is very important. I sat next to Tukker for little awhile after taking this photo. The leaf-covered ground was soft – perfect for a nap! Too bad the gnats were out in full force or I would have stayed longer.
Nice shade and good cover make an excellent spot to ruminate.

Our governor issued the COVID-19 “Safer At Home” order on March 24th. It has been since then and maybe a bit earlier, that Tukker seemed content enough to stay close to home as well. Each day I spot him over in our neighbor’s back yard. Steve’s yard has always been wild and woolly, and the other deer we’ve raised loved to venture over there too, despite the ferocious barking of Steve’s three dogs.

It seems Steve’s yard is an enchanted forest to all wild things. I’ve seen Ms. Foxy raise her kits there. Punkin, our orphaned squirrel has raised babies down in the bottom on Steve’s place. And our first orphaned deer, Daisy, always had her babies over on Steve’s property. His yard has every kind of cover, and ever kind of edible a young deer could hope to see. In fact, just yesterday I discovered there are even two Gum bumelia (see previous post) trees back there!

I guess, if a young deer who is free to roam wild feels “Safer at Home”, then dad gummit, home must be the place to be!

Every evening Tukker sits near our back porch, just atop the slope. From there he can watch for his friends to come in from the woodlands to get water at the wildlife tub and nibble some Antlermax at the feeders.
There is a bounty of good food in the woodlands now that spring has arrived.
Many mornings I find Tukker in the middle of Steve’s backyard. He’s always bedded down facing our front yard and towards his old deer pen.
I found two Gum bumelia trees in Steve’s backyard! This one is small but looks quite healthy!
Deer are good at reaching for browse up high. Tukker’s appetite has increased in the last couple of weeks. Growing antlers takes serious nutrition!

© 2020 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…


32 thoughts on “Safer At Home

  1. It’s nice that Tukker feels like he can come home. When our daughter was school age we tried to start her in school, but she just wasn’t ready to leave home for half a day. So we didn’t force the issue, just let her stay home until the next intake about 6 months later. After about three days of me staying with her at school, she looked up at me one day and said ‘mum you don’t have to stay now’. It gave her the security she needed to be without me. Maybe your kid will feel the same one day. Meanwhile you can enjoy seeing him safe. Those marks on his coat are pretty big. xx

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    1. I think you did a wonderful thing for your daughter. Not everyone is ready to venture out according to what is socially “normal”. We’ve found with all sorts of animals that it’s different for each one. Squirrels are perhaps the most afraid and skittish once on their own. Sometimes, in raising the orphans, it takes them months to finally venture out to the woods for good. We all have our comfort levels.

      I’ve seen Tukker leap the fence to Steve’s property next door, so I know he can jump. I think just like venturing out, the more you practice any skill, the better you become at it and gain confidence. I’m sure had he had a doe mother and not a human mother, these things would have been learned much sooner!

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    1. I admit after I had chosen the photo and went to put it in the post I looked at it and wondered where Tukker was. I usually see one of his eyes first. This is how it is for me many times as I walk in the wild. I either feel like I’m being watched, or I notice some slight movement, like flicking of the ears or tail movement. I really need to do some posts on that.

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    1. Yes, we certainly are fortunate to live where we do. If I didn’t have chores to do and projects to keep up with, I could really delve into learning more from the wild things. Tukker is a gift, and we try to learn as much as we can from every critter we meet.

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  2. Beautiful photos which I enjoy very much and of course the photos are even better if Tukker is the picture. I hope his wound will soon be healed. His injuries and scrapes remind me of an adolescent or teenaged boy that incurs all sorts of injuries while growing up. I have gum bumelia in my yard as well which always brings in the doves in the fall. It is a great tree for attracting wildlife.

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    1. Thank you, Yvonne. The gouging wound took a long time to heal compared to wounds we have dealt with on our other orphaned deer, but Tukker has completely healed, and we’ve seen no signs of recurring infection. I am glad to hear about your Gum bumelia tree!! I will take time to look for more of these trees this summer. So far I have found two more (that makes three) on our property, and two on Steve’s property. I’ll bet there are more!!

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      1. If you like doves then the gum bumelia is the tree that draws them to my yard each fall. Other birds eat the berries too but the doves flock to my tree. I used to have 3 trees and over the years they were felled by high winds. I have a young one that is about 5 feet maybe but so far it has not produced any berries. The berries stain what ever they fall on but out in the wild that is not a problem as you know. I am amazed at all the various trees and birds and other wildlife that you and FD have on your property.

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        1. That’s good to know about the age of the trees. The two I found at my neighbor Steve’s are very young. The others are on the orchard property and are much older. I seem to be finding these trees all over now that I know what to look for!

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  3. Oh, Tucker – you do play hide and seek well…and are smart enough to head home for a checkup just in case and some snacks. So happy he has friends – I’ve seen deer cross fences like that – always amazing they skim through…(hard for human children to do that without getting snagged, too)
    That last picture is so cute – and great texture.

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    1. Snacks?? Did you say SNACKS??? Tukker will be running over, lickity split! Tukker is the first deer we’ve raised that knows his name and comes if FD calls him. I do not call for him, and we truly never gave him much attention when he was little. He always did (and still does) act like a buck, being a loner and having a mind of his own. But Tukker does love his people, especially FD. He will follow FD everywhere (if in the mood).
      We have seen him down at the feeders with other deer a few nights, but for a while now we no longer see him on cameras off to the west towards the river. We found deer parts from a harvested deer in the orchard yesterday (probably our neighbor to the north who dumps his harvested deer parts just on the fence line to the orchard) and also the almost complete, and mostly decomposed carcass of a deer that may have been hit on the road that runs between the city park and the orchard, laying in the grasses of the orchard. All of this would attract the coyotes, and we now wonder if maybe Tukker is staying close to home because of the coyote traffic. We have also seen a mama to be doe down at the feeder, and wonder if she’s checking out a possible nursery for her babies in the area. It will be interesting to see if Tukker is given the boot by her!

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  4. I spent so much of my childhood watching antelope scoot under or through, barb wire fencing (prairie gal here) – interesting to learn that’s how Tukker went about things – haven’t ever observed a deer, here, do anything other than jump over it – unless young and ‘missed the jump’ and caught a hoof on the top wire – interesting….will have to watch more closely, but for me, while out and about, more often seen antelope than I do deer

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    1. Antelope would reside in the northwestern part of Oklahoma, so I have never seen one in these parts. I am sure Tukker will get the leaping over fences right if he continues to learn from the wild ones. Deer are like any other mammal, looking for the path of least resistance! I have seen signs that many deer “duck” under fences, since they leave hair on the barbs of the fencing. I have to say though, I’ve never seen one just bolt through the fence like Tukker does.

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  5. Beautiful photos – my favorites were the one with Tukker with the snow on his nose in the fresh snowfall, napping and the last picture reaching up. What a treasure you have with him close by – yes, he knows where his Mama is and knows where he wants to be. 🙂

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    1. Thank you, Linda! Yes, Tukker is especially drawn to FD for some reason. I suspect it’s a buck thing since bucks tend to hang together at certain times of year. He is good to keep me company when I’m working outdoors. He usually eats browse and new plants and tree leaves as I work in the garden. Most of the time though, I see him over at Steve’s where the good wild and shady places are, and lots of good eats! I truly need to carry my camera around more. I’ll miss these days of good photography opportunities if I’m not more thoughtful of it!

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      1. I am glad you will be carrying your camera around – I enjoy the Tukker visits and now we all will be getting into more picturesque scenery (for us in SE Michigan, we are still dealing with blah scenery as it’s been more like Winter than Spring).

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  6. Tukker is such a sweet looking boy and those antler nubbins of his should become a nice rack. Yes, I found him. 🙂 It’s too bad that he wishes to stay close to his nursery but in a way indeed safer at home. In time possibly the mating drive will cause him to wander more…hopefully without further prong injuries. I envy your close relationships with wild animals. Lucky Lori! 🙂

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    1. You think like we do, Steve. Tukker’s drive during the rut will cause him to leave in search of females. I don’t dwell on thinking about injuries that he may incur during that time. Life is rough for bucks and we’ve seen evidence of that. I always have to think about what a good start we gave him, and that as we all do, he will figure it out in time and make his way, or not.
      Those little antlers are growing every day. Watching that process (as we did with Ronnie deer back in 2017) is just amazing. Can you imagine growing bone at that rate? No wonder he’s an eating machine these days!

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      1. I guess if our life expectancy was that much shorter we’d grow faster too. OTOH, although we never had kids, I do know that they outgrow their clothes quickly…especially shoes. 🙂

        I am sure you don’t anthropomorphize their lives. Life and death is a struggle in the natural world and while they do experience fear, demise is part of life for the wild. At least you give them a fighting chance.<3

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        1. I like your thoughts, Steve. The first time I heard the word, “anthropomorphic” and looked up the definition I realized why it is that I find most Disney movies ridiculous. Life, even for humans, is unpredictable and often difficult. We get every experience we are supposed to, and harsh as that may be, it’s part of the experience of life.
          I have no children either. I believe in part, it’s made it easier for me to relate to nature’s harshness. I spent a lot of my young life yearning for things that weren’t meant to be… only to discover as I matured, the gifts of not having certain responsibilities, and in that, allowing me time to heal from my own wounds and give to other’s in ways I could never have imagined.

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          1. I have mixed feelings about cartoons, movies, etc., having animals with human expression. Of course it does give the wrong impression but on the plus side helps some people feel empathy as in Bambi. Not necessarily how nature works but I guess maybe nature does get some benefit from anthropomorphic tendency.
            We decided kids would be too much stress for Mary Beth’s health with MS to deal with as a physical nervous disorder. It has made her life, and mine, easier in that way. We won’t have anyone to help us as only children can in our old age but at least we should reach old age. 🙂

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  7. I always enjoy reading your posts! Thank you for sharing. In these weird Corona days it is especially nice that deer just do their thing. I hope you and your family are safe and well. Greetings from The Netherlands 🙂

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    1. I’m so glad you enjoy my posts! We are doing just fine here – and you are correct that nature goes on just doing their thing despite this pandemic. This morning I was working in the blackberries for several hours, and I noticed about four young crows doing flyovers, calling out to each other. I have observed them doing this for a few months now. I call it “communications training”!! In nature, there are no worries like we humans have, and the fight to survive is continual.

      You stay safe as well. 🙂

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    1. It is interesting to observe the differences in each fawn we’ve raised. Tukker is so much like a buck should be behaving at this stage, but he’s also very human-friendly, which can be a worry. I hope that instinct will kick in by autumn, when the rut begins, and he takes more to being with his own kind.

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