Tukker’s Yearling Summer

Tukker, the orphaned buck fawn we raised in 2019, and released January 16th of 2020, spent most of the spring enjoying his freedom. He never ventured far, though we knew he had crossed through barbed wire fencing, as his back was scraped to the point it was often more bloody than hair-covered. Fortunately, at some point, Tukker finally learned to jump the fences. We also observed him tagging along with other deer, but getting the usual hoofing by a protective doe or a dominant buck. Over the years, we have learned this process is part of the establishment of the pecking order, as occurs with most all animal life. And, as other orphans before him, Tukker endured it all and kept trying.

Still, we knew Tukker preferred to spend most days in his lair – a quiet area under the kitchen window of our home. Here, he was tucked in a thicket of shrubs near my herb garden on the north side of our house. Tukker’s lair offered him a light, cool breeze, shade, and a fairly insect-free existence, close to food and water… and his human family.

I crawled under the forsythia bush to get this shot. I have to admit it was nice and cool under there and nary a bug to be seen!

By August, we began seeing photos of Tukker more frequently on game cameras down in the canyon and off into the pecan orchard. Gradually, those photos showed him keeping company with another young buck, maybe a year older than he. As Tukker’s antlers grew and his body thickened, it became apparent he was every bit as big as his older friend. Many times, the two of them showed up in the evening to eat from the feeders in the canyon. We found it interesting that Tukker’s friend did not seem to be wary of us. He never came very close, but would stay nearby while Tukker came up top to visit his folks and have a quick snack of apple or carrot (or both). Game cameras also revealed nighttime activity where Tukker and his friend were part of a small group of bucks. This was a very good sign! Tukker had managed to become a member of the local bachelor group of bucks taking part in normal herding activity before the rutting season.

Early spring allows for a lot of good eats to grow great antlers! I put in a few clover plots each year to nourish our fawns after release.
Tukker has always been gentle with the local fawns. The does however, snort and stomp at him!
I took this photo to show how healthy Tukker is this autumn. The spots, or dappling, along his spine are a sign of a very healthy deer. Tukker is the only deer we’ve raised who has jumped up on the porches – not bothering with the steps or a ramp. He seems to understand the porches are not just the entrances to where his people live, but also offer protection. In the wee hours one night this summer, I heard him clomping on the back porch. How odd for him to get on the porch in the night… yet just a minute later a hail storm hit, pelting the area with small hail for more than forty minutes! I will always wonder if he instinctively knew a storm was coming!

In early September, both Tukker and his friend shed the dried velvet from their antlers. And by late September, both bucks had bulked up with thick necks and robust bodies. We no longer saw the two of them with the larger group of bucks and Tukker often showed up with small gouges and wounds around his face and neck. These were signs of normal sparring activity, as was the bucks beginning to venture out on their own, and breaking away from the bachelor group.

The morning of September 5th, we found Tukker in the beginning stage of shedding the velvet from his antlers.
Running around whacking the velvet off your antlers makes you a mighty thirsty fella!
Tukker, at the feeder, has made real progress working the velvet strips from his antlers. Much of the velvet is ingested by the buck, as it is offers nutritional benefit.
By the next day Tukker had managed to shed all but a tiny bit of velvet around the pedicle. In this photo, you can also see what a healthy and stout young buck he has become!

Tukker no longer looks like my little fawn buck, but a mature, stately, quiet and gentle beast. Occasionally, he comes for a snack in the evenings, but mostly, we see him on game cameras enjoying the primarily nighttime activity of a wild, woodland buck. It will be interesting to see if he ventures very far off during the rutting season, which is just around the corner in our area. Sometimes a buck will cover miles in search of females and will vie with other bucks along the way, introducing the possibility of injury or even death. And, though our property is protected and we have the lease on the neighboring property all of the way to the river, we cannot completely protect Tukker from being hunted. Here, hunting season for deer runs from October 1 through January 15th.

Tukker recently came to visit us and enjoyed a few acorns Forrest offered him.

Like it was with Daisy, and Emma, and Ronnie as they made their own ways into the wild herd and the woodland world, I find myself cherishing each and every visit from Tukker.

© 2020 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…


22 thoughts on “Tukker’s Yearling Summer

  1. You’ve done well in bringing the Tukker tale up to date. In your picture on the porches, I whimsically imagined he was toting that paper bag from Fresh Market. I didn’t know that deer eat acorns, but one website that I found says “acorns are the preferred food source of white-tailed deer.”

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    1. Your research about acorns is correct. In fact, many species of wildlife, including all sorts of birds, enjoy acorns. I have read that for white-tails, if it is a scant year for acorns, many bucks will be undernourished for the rut. Acorns are a valuable resource for all landowners that wish to promote good wildlife management. I must write a post about what I’ve learned about oak trees too sometime. We have continually tried to transplant oak trees that come up volunteer in the woodlands. However, disappointingly, many do not make it or the gophers eat the roots. I have found the oak trees that do make it are planted from acorns distributed by the squirrels. So each spring I mow around all of the new oaks that come up from squirrel plantings. It’s funny how squirrels often annoy us, but they are the best alarmists in the woodlands, and planters of nut trees.

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  2. I SO enjoyed this post Lori. Tukker is so handsome. And how rewarding that he still comes around to see you, a bit like when our daughter wants to do things with us. You always know they have other choices, but when they choose you, it is special. What an interesting story about him using the porch for shelter from the hail storm too. Never having seen deer shedding their velvet I didn’t know it was so bloody looking! I always learn so much when I read your posts. Thank you for continuing to share your knowledge and experiences with us. xx

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    1. Oh, thank you, Ardys. I feel like every time Tukker returns, he is allowing me to witness the most sacred moments of a buck’s reclusive life. I am still bowled over by that night of the hail storm. Do you know just a minute after it quit I heard him leap off of the porch and head down the slope! I really believe he instinctively knew about the storm and he knew where he could find shelter. We have seen him resting back there on the rubber matting at times during the summer too. A ceiling fan whirls non-stop back there and I wonder if he knew that was a cooler spot to have a great lookout down the slope and keep watch for friends?

      Shedding velvet is very physical and bloody work! I’m so thankful for game cameras too, that we can see things we often miss during the daylight hours!

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  3. Oh, the baby pictures are always so sweet, but yes, he’s grown up and quite handsome. Hopefully the instinct that kept him out of the hail storm will keep him away from hunters. He’s just too gorgeous.
    (Sure sounds like a children’s book to me)
    Well done Deer Mama

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    1. Oh I know… if only I could just write the stories (I have an illustrator) and someone else do the work to get children’s books published. I get overwhelmed by all of that. Forrest and I have talked about that… possibly when he retires. He’s my editor, after all.

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  4. That last photo’s quite something. His stance suggests a show animal that’s been trained to exhibit all its best qualities for the judges. In Tuckker’s case, he may be getting ready to show off for the girls, but he clearly has what it takes. It was especially interesting to read that they’ll eat their velvet. I posted some photos on Lagniappe showing a lizard eating its skin as it shed it. Apparently the lizards do it for two reasons: for nutrition, but also to prevent predators from sensing their presence through old skin.

    We’re just a little behind you. I’ve heard some ranch managers say the rut’s about two weeks out, give or take. Tukker’s going to have an interesting autumn!

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    1. That’s interesting about the lizard. Predator prevention is a major reason for eating a lot of things. With deer, the does eat their after birth and completely eat and lick up any signs of a birth. I noted Daisy deer ALWAYS had her babies during a morning rain. I think that birthing can be put off and timed to help with cleansing the area. I would imagine many animal species do that. Also, the does eat the fawns urine and scat for about three weeks after giving birth for two reasons – to note what might be missing in a fawn’s diet that they need, and for a “scentless” approach to keeping predators from detecting presence. I remember reading an article one time where a hunter wrote that fawns are born “scentless” so that predators won’t get them. It’s only true that they are mostly scent-free because of the mother’s protection, keeping the fawns clean and the area clean.

      This cold spell we are experiencing will have the deer more active. I have not seen signs of the rut yet this week, but the chasing will soon begin. I always worry for the fawns at this time – it’s a confusing time with mama being chased and the young can’t keep up. Does can be gone for three or four days, making the fawns susceptible to predation by coyotes. I am sure Tukker will enjoy his first rutting season. I’ve been keeping an out out for trespassers, doing a daily run on our leased property to keep would-be hunters out. I do not know how far Tukker will venture but there are many does in this area this year, so maybe he can avoid sparring with the big boys and find some does in our protected area.

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  5. How wonderful that Tucker still comes around and to see him looking so well. I guess it’s amazing but unsurprising that he understands the concept of safety and shelter and incorporates his human’s surroundings in his orbit.

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    1. You are correct about wildlife and their “unsurprising” concept of safety and shelter. For years I have watched wildlife use the most unusual situations to seek both. They’re opportunists for sure, but also clever and resilient. I don’t know how long Tukker will stick around when the rut starts. We’ve only raised one other buck, Ronnie, and he took off about a week after it all started. It’s impossible to know if he’s still around because we never get a close enough look, and in time they become too wild and untrusting, which is good.

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  6. Tukker is indeed a handsome young buck. He has a fine rack which should serve him well when competition for a doe of his liking is in question. If looks matter he should be in high demand with the ladies. 🙂

    I am way too soft-hearted to be able to do what you and Forrest do. Your mention of hunting was on my mind as I read to that point. I would get too attached and the idea of him, or any other of your fosters, being killed would be heartbreaking. It’s the way of life but still hard on those of use with bleeding hearts. 🙂

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