Mommy Deerest

By Mike Johnson
Photo: My best antler find. The buck had bed down in my driveway and I awoke to this

Nature is so straight forward as to be cruel.
When it comes to mother mule deer and their fawns, the youngsters better pay attention.

At snack time here on the mountain, moms eat first. If really hungry, they chase off or whack their own children with a hoof if they try to share momís grub.
If mom is only medium or light hungry sheíll let the kids share.

To avoid fights, we spread any food we offer in many servings over a large area.

Bucks typically donít share with anyone. In fact, they chase others off their piles to take what they want. The kings of the herd move others away with just a step and a look.

Like people, deer have personalities.

We have a gentle, old king with a nice ten-point rack who will softly take food from our hand or bowl. Heís been a regular here since birth.

Blondie, another returning buck, will walk right into the barn (through the normal-sized door!) if I let him. Heíll take a snack by hand or bowl and allow petting while he eats.
A few of the momma deer will do the same. Their babies watch and the braver ones walk right up.

Some of these returning regulars actually come when we call and follow us across the yard like a dog. All wag their tails a couple times when they see us step outside.

Some of the mommas are jerks. They hold grudges against specific deer and will chase them or whack them if they get too close. Iíve seen a deer whack another with its hoof then chase it 50 yards to drive the point home.

Safe feeding takes research. Deer digestive systems change in the winter based on what theyíre eating. Bacteria and enzymes in their gut determine how effectively the foodís nutrition is broken down and absorbed by the body. These change by season and food content. You canít add to their diet too fast or the food can stew, ferment and painfully kill the animal. This is one reason why wildlife folks tell you not to feed. And if you do feed, keep it limited to a snack, not their only meal. Wildlife knows what it needs better than humans.

Weíre entering antler-drop season. They grow new ones every year. Weíve had one big guy walking around with one antler for the past week. I couldnít find the other in my yard. So Iím watching him closely, hoping to see the other drop. Where they drop is luck of the draw and deer cover a big range. The more time on my property, the better chance it drops here. In a typical year, I find 5-10 antlers on my acreage.

Living so intimately with wildlife is yet another reason to establish your home away from cities.

I highly recommend it.


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