WHY WE DON’T DOMESTICATE DEER

Deer Formosan_sika_deer

WHY WE DON’T DOMESTICATE DEER

White tailed deer have been a source of food since men first appeared in New England.  At one point they were so heavily hunted that they became few and far between, and laws were put into place to regulate the hunt.  Not that hungry people always obeyed the law. Here in Southern New Hampshire, during the Great Depression, an illegally hunted deer was called a “jacked deer,” and a carcass hung in the cooler of the local market, for families who could not afford beef.

Times are different, and while deer are still fairly scarce and wary here, because they are hunted, down in the suburbs of Boston they are a nuisance and a problem, because, ever since Walt Disney produced the movie “Bambi,” the idea of deer as food has been repulsive to many.  In actual fact it is very good food, and contains no growth hormones, steroids and other chemicals found in commercial meat.  Even the rich eat it, though they call it “venison,” rather than “deer.”

The over-population of deer in the suburbs damages cars when they crash into them, decimate the landscaping of suburban properties, and has led to an increase of deer ticks and Lyme disease.  It would seem to make good sense to cull the population.  At the very least the meat could feed the poor in the inner city.  Of course, it would have to be a careful culling, to avoid bullet holes in picture windows, but it could be done.

Instead there remains an instinct to protect Bambi.  Deer are to be left untouched. Some states even have laws against the rescue and bottle-raising of Bambi.  Unfortunately this recently led to an embarrassing incident where someone took pity on a fawn that seemed abandoned, (NOTE: Fawns seldom are truly abandoned; leave them where you find them, and come back later, and usually you’ll discover the mother returned and led the little one away.)

The full and sad story is found here:  http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/aug/1/13-wisconsin-officials-raid-animal-shelter-kill-ba/

In a nutshell what happened was that someone dropped a Bambi off at a no-kill animal shelter, which was going to move it to a wildlife refuge, but, because “Wisconsin law forbids the possession of wildlife” the shelter was raided.  It was a case of “overkill,” (forgive the pun,) as the raid involved “nine [Department of Natural Resources] agents and four deputy sheriffs, and they were all armed to the teeth.” Furthermore, because it was standard policy to destroy human-raised wildlife, they killed Bambi and walked off with the carcass in a body bag.

(I sure hope they ate it.)

This fiasco has gone viral on the internet, and is a great example of laws and regulations turning into a comedy of errors. People with the best intentions are always stimulating the law of unintended consequences.

For example, when humans refuse to cull deer, Mother Nature steps in to do the culling, often in a manner that horrifies the softhearted.  Over-populated deer starving to death in the winter is not a pretty sight, and a dying buck staggering into the view of a picture window is not what most moved to the suburbs to see.  Nor is the sight of a pack of coyotes, (which have recently moved into affluent Boston suburbs,)  bringing down a winter-weakened doe.  The softhearted suburbanite is especially displeased when a coyote can’t catch a deer, and instead pounces on their much-loved Persian Cat or Chihuahua, right on their front porch. When such people get snarled at while jogging, (it has happened,) they start to think things may be getting just a little bit out of control.

The next unintended consequence will arise when, in an attempt to control wild populations, birth control pills are mixed in with wild animal food and left in suburban yards. I’ll leave it up to you to imagine what could go wrong with that idea.

What I’ve been wondering is: Why we don’t tame the deer, and teach them to behave better?  We do it with dogs, don’t we?  And even animals we don’t call pets, and only raise to eat, learn to obey us, though in the case of my goats they only obeyed until I turned my back. I finally had to put up electric fences to protect my corn.

Then the deer promptly came from the other direction and ate my corn.  However I found I could scare them away by stringing the thin aluminum pie plates (that store-bought pies come in) from trees.  I’d hang them so they made a faint metallic sound when they bumped together, and deer didn’t like that sound, perhaps mistaking it for some sound associated with guns.  Also, by going to a barber shop and getting a bag of human hair, and putting handfuls of hair around and near the garden, I created a smell that makes deer think a human might be hiding nearby, and they back off.

Having controlled deer that much, I wondered if any farmers farm deer.  They probably do, and some of the venison sold to the wealthy in chic stores may be loaded with growth hormones, steroids and other chemicals.  However I was totally dissuaded from the idea of farming deer because the first story I linked to was the following, which I think should be a lesson to us all. (I also think the writer deserves a Pulitzer Prize of some sort.)

WHY WE SHOOT DEER IN THE WILD

(A letter from someone who wants to remain anonymous, who farms, writes well and actually tried this).

I had this idea that I could rope a deer, put it in a stall, feed it up on corn for a couple of weeks, then kill it and eat it. The first step in this adventure was getting a deer. I figured that, since they congregate at my cattle feeder and do not seem to have much fear of me when we are there (a bold one will sometimes come right up and sniff at the bags of feed while I am in the back of the truck not 4 feet away), it should not be difficult to rope one, get up to it and toss a bag over its head (to calm it down) then hog tie it and transport it home.

I filled the cattle feeder then hid down at the end with my rope. The cattle, having seen the roping thing before, stayed well back. They were not having any of it. After about 20 minutes, my deer showed up– 3 of them. I picked out a likely looking one, stepped out from the end of the feeder, and threw my rope.

The deer just stood there and stared at me. I wrapped the rope around my waist and twisted the end so I would have a good hold.

The deer still just stood and stared at me, but you could tell it was mildly concerned about the whole rope situation. I took a step towards it, it took a step away. I put a little tension on the rope .., and then received an education. The first thing that I learned is that, while a deer may just stand there looking at you funny while you rope it, they are spurred to action when you start pulling on that rope.

That deer EXPLODED. The second thing I learned is that pound for pound, a deer is a LOT stronger than a cow or a colt. A cow or a colt in that weight range I could fight down with a rope and with some dignity. A deer– no Chance. That thing ran and bucked and twisted and pulled. There was no controlling it and certainly no getting close to it. As it jerked me off my feet and started dragging me across the ground, it occurred to me that having a deer on a rope was not nearly as good an idea as I had originally imagined. The only upside is that they do not have as much stamina as many other animals.

A brief 10 minutes later, it was tired and not nearly as quick to jerk me off my feet and drag me when I managed to get up. It took me a few minutes to realize this, since I was mostly blinded by the blood flowing out of the big gash in my head. At that point, I had lost my taste for corn-fed venison. I just wanted to get that devil creature off the end of that rope.

I figured if I just let it go with the rope hanging around its neck, it would likely die slow and painfully somewhere. At the time, there was no love at all between me and that deer. At that moment, I hated the thing, and I would venture a guess that the feeling was mutual. Despite the gash in my head and the several large knots where I had cleverly arrested the deer’s momentum by bracing my head against various large rocks as it dragged me across the ground, I could still think clearly enough to recognize that there was a small chance that I shared some tiny amount of responsibility for the situation we were in. I didn’t want the deer to have to suffer a slow death, so I managed to get it lined back up in between my truck and the feeder a little trap I had set before hand…kind of like a squeeze chute. I got it to back in there and I started moving up so I could get my rope back.

Did you know that deer bite?

They do! I never in a million years would have thought that a deer would bite somebody, so I was very surprised when . I reached up there to grab that rope and the deer grabbed hold of my wrist. Now, when a deer bites you, it is not like being bit by a horse where they just bite you and slide off to then let go.

A deer bites you and shakes its head–almost like a pit bull. They bite HARD and it hurts.

The proper thing to do when a deer bites you is probably to freeze and draw back slowly. I tried screaming and shaking instead. My method was ineffective.

It seems like the deer was biting and shaking for several minutes, but it was likely only several seconds. I, being smarter than a deer (though you may be questioning that claim by now), tricked it. While I kept it busy tearing the tendons out of my right arm, I reached up with my left hand and pulled that rope loose.

That was when I got my final lesson in deer behavior for the day.

Deer will strike at you with their front feet. They rear right up on their back feet and strike right about head and shoulder level, and their hooves are surprisingly sharp… I learned a long time ago that, when an animal -like a horse –strikes at you with their hooves and you can’t get away easily, the best thing to do is try to make a loud noise and make an aggressive move towards the animal. This will usually cause them to back down a bit so you can escape.

This was not a horse. This was a deer, so obviously, such trickery would not work. In the course of a millisecond, I devised a different strategy. I screamed like a woman and tried to turn and run. The reason I had always been told NOT to try to turn and run from a horse that paws at you is that there is a good chance that it will hit you in the back of the head. Deer may not be so different from horses after all, besides being twice as strong and 3 times as evil, because the second I turned to run, it hit me right in the back of the head and knocked me down.

Now, when a deer paws at you and knocks you down, it does not immediately leave I suspect it does not recognize that the danger has passed. What they do instead is paw your back and jump up and down on you while you are laying there crying like a little girl and covering your head.

I finally managed to crawl under the truck and the deer went away. So now I know why when people go deer hunting they bring a rifle with a scope……to sort of even the odds!!

*************

(AFTERWARD  —   I wrote this story 11 months ago, and initially there was a flurry of 60 views, which is quite good for my backwater site. Then the piece faded into the obscurity that most of my writing likes to retire to, and I figured that was that. However last May I noticed the forgotten story was getting a few views, and these have gradually increased until yesterday (July 5, 2014), it received 90 views in a single day. I am very curious, and if someone has a moment to spare, I’d be eager to hear how they heard of this writing. Word of mouth? Or is it mentioned on some site somewhere?

In any case, like most writers I find attention gratifying, and I tend to gravitate towards gratification. (One reason I like to write about arctic sea-ice is because the subject draws viewers, and also I receive interesting comments, resulting in interesting conversations.) The interest this work has drawn will likely have me attempting to write other humorous pieces, for I actually like writing such things. Two other pieces people have liked, in the archives of this site, are   https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2013/08/04/beavers-and-bureaucrats/ and https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2013/02/16/osha-snow/ )

Afterward #2

As of this evening, (November 15, 2014,) this particular post has 1.582 views and has moved into fourth place, in terms of the most popular post on this obscure blog. Today had 30 views, which is second only to a mysterious spike of 90 views last July 5. Gradually, over the past months, the average-views-per-day has crept up from 1 to 8. 

I continue to be at a loss to explain why this post attracts increasing attention. I’ll be interested to see if the attention fades after the hunting season is over. It is a sheer guess on my part to imagine that the title just happened to leap up when people typed “Domesticate Deer” into their search engines, and then the hilarity of the farmer’s wonderful story caused them to share his story with others. I think he deserves most of the credit for the popularity of this post. 

I would be interested and also grateful if anyone would share with me how they came to hear about this piece, which I mostly wrote because I laughed so hard, reading the farmer’s story, that I very much wanted to share the joy.

 Afterward #3

NOVEMBER 25 Noted another spike yesterday of 20 views. This time it apparently is due to being mentioned on the site “4chan” (at http://boards.4chan.org/an/ ) involving the image: ” File: deer-formosan_sika_deer.jpg “

This old post now has 1749 views, with 323 views so far this November. Not bad, when I consider there were a total of 386 views during the entire period of ten months, after I first posted.

I wish I could contact the farmer who wrote the story. I figure he has made 1749 people smile. 

Afterward #4

It is now June 18, 2015, and this post passed 3,500 views yesterday.  It is now my most popular post ever.  I noticed an upsurge of views during the hunting season last fall, and assumed the views would slump after the hunting season, and for a while they seemed to be moving in that direction. However recently there has been another mysterious increase, and June is seeing an average of 15 views a day. During the entire month of December, 2013, this post only had 14 views.

It goes to show you that you never know what will happen to an old post on the web. I am even thinking of making a collection of my more popular posts, and attempting to become fabulously wealthy with an eBook.

As always I remain curious about what attracted people to this post, and enjoy it greatly when people comment to tell me how they came to know of this story.

Afterward #5

Now it is August 27, 2016, and this old post has had 9221 views. Apparently when a post has that many views it pops up near the top of search engines, because many who have been kind enough to comment tell me that’s how they found the post.

Since I wrote the post I have learned that a fair number of farmers do try out raising deer, because venison brings a good price. I have also learned some have been mauled and even killed. I gather that during the rut a buck who has been hand-raised and seems tame will suddenly see the farmer as a rival worth attacking, and they are amazingly strong. 

Farmers who raise cattle are very careful with their bulls, because bulls are dangerous, and what’s more they look it. Perhaps it is less hard to take a stag seriously, especially if you have hand raised it, because they have kinder faces. However a buck is never truly tamed.

AFTERWARD #6

It is now April 6, 2017. This post passed 10,000 views last October, and currently stands at 12,377 views. There was a slight slacking after the hunting season last October-December, but after a spike of 52 views yesterday it seems evident this post will continue popular, and continue to gradually increase in its popularity.  I’m glad, for I think the writing of the “farmer who wished to remain anonymous” deserves to be preserved and to become a classic.

I continue to come across sad tales of people who have raised stags and then been mauled or even killed by them, and read some tales about people attacked by stags in the woods. I think the message should be clear that a stag is nothing to take for granted, when it is in the rut. 

A doe can also be dangerous, standing on their hind legs and punching with sharp hoofs, though they do not seem to become as crazed as the males become during the mating season.

In any case, if you discover a fawn in the woods this spring, it is best left alone. The mother is likely nearby, even watching from a distance, hidden in the underbrush.

The farmers who raise deer are aware of the dangers and take the necessary steps to protect themselves, (likely castrating most of the bucks.)

An interesting sidetrack is to study the farming of Reindeer in Finland, however, because Reindeer are more of a herd animal, they have some instincts that make them more sociable, and which allow a human to be seen as part of the “herd.”

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44 thoughts on “WHY WE DON’T DOMESTICATE DEER

    • I agree. And I’d likely be all for protecting northern White Tailed Deer, if there were only 800 left. I’ve had some neat confrontations with the northern ones, out in the woods, I hope to get around to blabbing about someday.

      However right now I’m all worn out from looking at the comeback of northern beavers in a way I hope you’ll find informative and humorous. Check out my site for “Beavers and Bureaucrats.”

  1. Caleb,

    That was excellent! I just finished reading this to my wife and we were both quite amused. As an ex-country boy, I always cut a wide swath between myself and any wild animal. They can be amazingly unpredictable and are quite capable of taking care of themselves. (Beavers; racoons; squirrels; deer; javalinas, wild pigs, oh my!)

    • Glad you liked it. A lot of credit goes to that farmer I quoted. What a great story-teller he is!

      What we now call “unintended consequences” was once made into a poem by Robert Burns, and includes the famous lines we translate from Scottish dialect into our saying, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

      The one animal that backs me off fastest in New Hampshire woods is a moose. They regard you quite calmly, and they are BIG.

  2. That was a fun story. 🙂 To satisfy your request, I’ve always shot deer. Then, I wondered why deer had never been tamed as food stock. Now I have a better idea of why they haven’t been.

    • Thanks for responding. I guess you aren’t the only one wondering why deer aren’t domesticated, as my story keeps getting 3-6 views a day. I still haven’t figured out what happened that day it got 90 views. Someone must have put a link to it on Facebook or Twitter, but I never found out where.

      I’m glad to be able to share this farmer’s story, for it is a good one, and deserves sharing.

  3. I have a hunch that if societal trends continue we will move toward eating native, more local species predominantly. This is why I’m interested in acorn harvesting (and why is has yet to take off) and raising deer instead of cattle. It’d be better for the land they’re on, that’s for sure.

    • Sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you.

      People in northern Finland have worked out some sort of relationship with the reindeer up there. So I imagine that, given enough motivation, people would figure out some sort of relationship they could have with white tailed deer. However it usually takes something like the threat of starvation to get people to act.

      White tailed deer laugh at fences. They can bound right over a fence twice as tall as a man is. So that would involve some sort of adjustment to the ways farmers ordinarily think. (Shock collars?)

      Deer, (and my goats,) think acorns are excellent food, but we humans find the tannic acid in them is hard on our guts. Folk around here got around that problem by boiling them, and throwing away the water. I suppose that is too much work for a modern human, but it is a useful thing to keep in mind, if we are ever faced with famine.

      Some used to gather huge amounts of acorns around here, and put them in an indentation scooped under a brook’s waterfall. Not only would the constant flow of water leach away the tannic acid, but the acorns would keep for years and even decades. It was a back-up food supply, held in reserve for emergency.

      Both in Finland and New England people used to save the inner bark of pines they cut late winter and early spring, for it too holds a supply of starch like acorns do. (The sap is overpowering, so they must have had some trick to make it edible.) We have mountains called the “Adirondacks” west of here, and that word means “Bark eater.” In Finland, if the summer was a good one, they would feed the bark to livestock, but if the summer saw a failure of crops, they had the bark to eat. The Finns knew much about famine, having survived some nightmares, and they didn’t take chances.

      I don’t much want to ever see a famine, but such knowledge is worth knowing, in case famine ever rears its ugly face.

  4. I’m sorry, this was a fun article but it was full of historical inaccuracies, misinformation, and what seems to be a lack of any real research. Although some of the content is accurate, much of it isn’t. I’ll start with the opening statement. “White tailed deer have been a source of food since men first appeared in New England.” You seem to have overlooked thousands of years of hunting by the native people of the North American continent. Also, if you did your research you would know that many deer species have been domesticated (although not always on a large scale) including caribou, white tail, and even moose. I visited a farm in Wisconsin just a few years back that kept over 100 head of white tail which they harvested from every year. They where very friendly and even knew their own names. I’m not trying to be mean but please do more fact finding before posting the first story Google finds for you. In fact, I was looking for that farm in Wisconsin when I Googled domesticated white tail. The first thing that came up was this article packed full of inainaccuracies. Sad. But true.

    • I’m sorry my humorous piece displeased you, but this article contains no inaccuracies that I am aware of. If you would like to point some out, I’d be glad to discuss that particular topic further.

      Regarding my statement, “White tailed deer have been a source of food since men first appeared in New England,” I stand by it. Do you you think I wasn’t including Native Americans? My grandmother’s grandmother was named “Miss Eagle” before she wed, and she apparently was a member of the Abenaki tribe.

      I hope you noted I did mention, in my article, “…I wondered if any farmers farm deer. They probably do…”

      I also mentioned in my comments that people have domesticated reindeer in northern Finland, and went on to discuss some of the problems one might face when “farming deer.” Besides the problem of building fences high enough, because deer can leap over a six foot fence with nonchalance, there is the problem that bucks can be quite dangerous when in rut. For example, here is a YouTube video of a bow-hunter being injured. (Despite the headline, I don’t believe the man was killed.)

      While reading the comments beneath that YouTube video, I became aware I have been lucky this post did not draw the wrath of the anti-hunting crowd. While commenting on YouTube they were not at all bothered a hunter was hurt and perhaps killed. They were also very vulgar. I will heavily edit or snip such comments, if they ever appear on this site, (making it clear I have done so.) It is not that I am bothered by people who dislike hunting, as much as I am bothered by the way some of them express their dislike. While they are humane to deer they are inhumane to humans.

      I think it is important that people better understand that nature culls an overpopulation of deer, if man doesn’t. I lived (on and off) down in Hopewell, New Jersey, back in 1976-1978, when overpopulation was a problem, and it was not a pretty sight. Meanwhile, in Virginia, a quarter million deer are hunted each year, and the population of deer is stable and healthy.

      Lastly, people in urban and suburban settings should understand hunting provides meat at a low price to the rural poor. Most hunters are careful and responsible, and are not particularly sadistic. They have done a lot to keep rural areas wild and free, at times working side-by-side with vegetarian tree-huggers to save a forest.

      I did not write this article to take sides on the hunting issue, or on the issue of whether humans should eat meat at all, but rather to poke fun at how irrational we humans get, concerning the subject. Also I wanted to share a well-written and funny story.

      I would like to know more about the farm in Minnesota that raises deer. If you could supply a link, I’d be interested.

      • 1.White tailed deer occur on both American continents.
        2. When you say “since men appeared on New England” it is very clear that you mean English Pilgrims- the two nouns give it that image.

        It is much more accurate to say: “since both species found each other on the North and South American continents.”

      • You are the second person to suggest I meant Pilgrims. I accept the fact my writing was unclear. I did not mean that. I meant mankind, in general.

        I know a deer hunter who chanced upon a piece of flint being eroded out of the bank of a stream while hunting. Because flint is not found in New Hampshire, he stooped to pick it up. It was a spear point from a people who arrived in New England before the more modern hunters who hunted with bows and arrows, and who hunted with spears. I forget the name given to this particular period of people, but do remember the flint was from Ohio.

        It turns out there is quite a bit of debate about who these people were and where they come from. Most think the original Americans came over the Being Strait, however, because the flint spear-points are so like the spear-points found in Europe, there is another idea people came along the edge of the ice at the end of the last ice age, across the North Atlantic.

        When I was going to school I was taught that these early “Clovis” people were forced to change because they killed all the big animals, such as mammoths. However even that idea is now questioned. There is a new idea that a meteor crashed into what remained of the ice-age ice-sheet up in Canada, wiping out the big animals and most, if not all, of the “Clovis” people, and bringing about the “Younger Dryas cold phase”.

        Just to get an idea of the technical nature of the debate, grit your teeth and read through the comments in this story from 2012. (Skip over the juvenile comments.) http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/06/16/younger-dryas-the-rest-of-the-story/

        There have been more recent stories, both disproving and proving the new idea of a meteor impact. It’s a hot topic, and tempers flare, and I find it best to sit on the fence, unless I can see a good question to ask. I know I myself don’t know the answers. I wasn’t there.

        The real lesson from all this is that it is darned dangerous to use a phrase such as “since men first appeared.” I’ll be more careful, in the future.

  5. In answer to your question , enroute back to northern Ontario, my fellow and I began discussing the potential of domesticating deer…so…you guessed it… The search engine brought up your wonderful story which kept us laughing on (what would have been) a very dull ride home. Thank you!!

    • Thanks for replying and quenching my curiosity.

      I am happy you and your fellow found some laughter in my writing. That is why I write, for, although humor is dangerous stuff to fool about with, without laughter life is too much duty and too much a drag.

  6. Searched for “domesticated deer”, top on Google, clicked for the info, stayed for the amusing story of a domesticated human who knows domesticated animals getting their ass kicked by one of the most primal (that is, in spite of human interaction, an image of the wilderness behavior-wise) herbivores.

    I can’t get over the fact that they shake their heads when they bite: is it a result of how the browse, or did they have some carnivorous ancestor who broke the necks of their prey?

    • I’m glad you liked the farmer’s tale. It deserves to be published far and wide. I especially like the way he pokes fun at his own behavior. Rather than anger or self-pity there is a sort of self-depreciating wonder over his own assumptions, and a wondering about what the deer was thinking. I wonder if the farmer has written anything else? He ought be encouraged, as a writer.

      Judging from my own goats, the side-to-side motion of the biting deer’s head comes from ripping tougher vegetation from branches or stalks. Goats, like deer, are browsers rather than grazers like sheep and cows. Goats are not happy eating just grass, and prefer variety in their diets, including some tough twigs and weeds, yet goats have no upper teeth to snip with, in the front of their mouths, and tear vegetation off plants with a twisting wrench. Judging from deer skulls I’ve seen, deer also have a hard upper palate rather than upper teeth, but I’ll have to observe a deer’s mouth more carefully next chance I get, to be sure.

      One funny thing about the story is the farmer’s way of surmising what the deer was thinking. Naturalists are always warned to avoid anthropomorphizing, however hunters and farmers are always doing it, trying to figure out what the beast is going to do next. Ernest Thompson Seton, who was a hunter as well as a naturalist, and who spent periods of his life living with Native Americans, wrote books such as “Lives of the Hunted” and the popular “Wild Animals I Have Known,” (1898) ascribing noble emotions to beasts, and was then taken to task by the elderly naturalist John Burroughs, which led to six years of debate in the press called “The Nature Fakers Controversy,” and even involved former president Theodore Roosevelt. It makes a bit of fascinating research for those with free time: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nature_fakers_controversy

      That shows you how controversial the subject is. One thing is certain, animals do not go out of their way to be eaten. While some smaller creatures may be frozen by fear, or even die of fear, many fight fiercely, especially when defending their young. The expression “fights like a cornered rat” does not exist without reason.

      I think most hunters and small farmers, who actually face the meat they will eat when it is alive, usually appreciate the life of the animals they and their families are nourished by more than those who only shop in stores. Although I think it will seem like the greatest hypocrisy to some vegetarians, I have known farmers who went to great lengths to make sure their pigs died humanely and that each pig had no idea a bullet was about to enter their brain, and even then were very sad about saying good-bye.

  7. This was a great story! Someone on the animal and nature board on 4chan linked this post to explain why deer farming isn’t really a thing.

    • Thanks. That may explain the increase in views. I located it on: http://boards.4chan.org/an/ under the picture File:deer-formosan_sika_deer.jpg

      A discussion got going at that site regarding whether deer could evolve to avoid highways, or whether it was a learned-behavior.

      (I’d vote for learned-behavior, sort of like a young human learning to avoid a hot stove. To a certain degree parents can warn, but some kids have to try it out for themselves. The problem with deer and highways is that often there isn’t a second chance.)

      I’m glad you enjoyed the story. Thanks again for pointing out where my visitors were coming from.

  8. Domestication is a long-term evolutionary process. It’s based on adaptation to a food source, and is made possible by behavioral and genetic changes. It doesn’t start or end with the imposition of human will, though over the generations we play our part. White-tailed deer are probably already in the process, but it won’t happen in a lifetime.

    • What an interesting idea! That white-tailed deer are in the process of becoming domesticated. However it will be more difficult in their case, due to their starting point.

      The animals most inclined to splice themselves into a human group tend to have a starting point wherein they have some sort of instinctive ability to fit into a group, whether it be a pack or a herd. Cows, sheep, horses, goats and even reindeer have a herd mentality which white-tailed deer lack.

      Even when animals have a herd mentality, there is always a danger the beast will decide they want to replace you, as the alpha-male or alpha-female. Even if you raise a wolf as a puppy, there is apparently a danger they may turn on you in a flash once they are grown, if you show some sign of weakness. (In one tale the wolf’s owner hurt his ankle skiing, and as soon as the wolf saw his master limping, it decided it wanted to be master.) I imagine dogs had this bred out of them, as any dog that turned on its master tended to get “weeded out”, and over 10,000 years that amounted to selective breeding.

      We have been less successful in breeding that danger out of boy cows. And boy elephants in “rut” are so dangerous that “like a mad elephant” is a figure of speech in India.

      Cats are another matter. No one is sure whether we domesticated them, or they domesticated us.

      In any case, thanks for commenting. You’ve made me think.

  9. I google’d ‘white tail dear pet’ and this post was the 3rd response on the 1st page. I’m browsing stories of domesticated deer just out of curiousity, sometimes when I ride my bike they let me pretty close.

    You are quite funny, great voice and comic instincts. I say this as an aspiring writer who close reads everything as a way to study writing craft. What you have here is a marketable essay. With a few editorial adjustments it’s the kind of thing an outdoorsy type magazine would run. I mean, some readers might say you’re an idiot for trying it (not me, some conservationists with no sense of humor). But the writing itself is engaging and you have a genuinely interesting story. Query some magazine editors and pitch it. There is an editor out there somewhere that will like the piece.

  10. You want to know why people read your site? In my case, it was by googling “taming deer.” I had received an e-mail from a friend who said she came upon a doe lying down, and was so gratified that deer were getting to like us humans and didn’t get up and run off. I figured the doe was dying (we live in California where there’s a drought) but was hopefully looking for evidence that deer were getting tame. So far, I haven’t found any.

    • Thanks for the information. I appreciate it.

      I fear you are right. It may not have been thirst, but something likely wasn’t right with that deer. It may have been wounded, as it is hunting season in many states. (I’m not sure about California.)

      Deer don’t form herds like reindeer, so they don’t have any natural inclination to make us “part of the group”. However they seem friendly enough, in their own way, (except for males during the rut.)

      Once and only once did I trick a deer by pretending to walk one way, and then tiptoeing rapidly back another way and through a short cut, so the deer, minding its own business, came around a corner and face to face with the human it thought it had successfully avoided. I smiled and waggled my fingers at it, as it jumped slightly and turned to go bounding away. However as it turned it shot me a most indignant and disapproving look. It didn’t look scared as much as it looked irked.

      For the most part I think they don’t want to have much to do with humans, and I can hardly blame them..

    • I agree. I’ve seen what happens when deer have no predators, and over populate. Not pretty.

      Where are you from? Different parts of the country have different attitudes.

  11. I found your page while googling “how people tamed deer” because I was under the impression that deer could not be farmed. Then I went out to meet a rural duck farmer and drove right past a huge pen of farmed deer. No way! Apparently someone learned how to keep them penned in without freaking out, escaping, having heart attacks, and being willing to breed in captivity. I still have not found the how, when, or why to thwir domestication, but I enjoyed your article all the same.

    • Thanks for responding. Can you tell me where the deer-farm was located? I’d like to research it more. Are you certain it wasn’t reindeer or caribou? They have the “herd instinct” and are more manageable.

      I know there is a market for venison, and the price is high, so it make sense people would farm deer.

      I think I may update this post soon. It is my most popular.

  12. I googled whether it would be possible to ride/domesticate deer and your article came up 🙂 very interesting and highly amusing (sorry) to read!

  13. Really funny story. I came accross your site because I am attempting to build a shelter for a deer that was left on my fenced in property. The .other used to come around, now not so much. I have been feeding it, and leaving it fresh water. Winter is coming, and there isnt any Shelter for it to keep warm. I placed an old picnic table, with straw under and I tapped the top to keep it dry and wind free. I don’t know if she’ll use it, but I was looking for ideas. People farm raise deer, so I tried searching online. More difficult than you think. Most sites are how to set up a blind and kill them. I don’t want to pet it, bUT I’m hoping she’ll survive the winter and maybe start hanging out with my goats. 🙂

  14. …..you are getting attention because your artilcle was honest, and a riot. Youre a terrific story teller, and although, as a suburban bred gal I tend not to be on the side of the hunter I was really rooting for you there.We do tend to anthropomorphize animals more than we should, thanks to movies and CGI,and sometimes that makes us lose sight of what it means to be wild.

    Too bad…Ive always loved white tailed deer and thought it would be so cool to have a tame one in my back yard. But aparrently, like chimps, they grow up to be real jerks. {From a pet owner perspective}

    • Bucks are only really dangerous in the rut. I can’t stress enough that people should be careful. There are some horrid stories about people who raised bucks that turned on them. However once the antlers fall off, their sanity comes back, and they are friends you don’t mind meeting in the forest. Just don’t try to rope one!

  15. I stumbled upon your post when a friend said something on Facebook about arguing with a dood about whether deer are feral here in Australia (yes, they are) and also whether or not they are domesticated. There was a deer farm near where I grew up with really tall fences and a small number of deer, so it can be done – I can’t see it being a big thing though. Kind of like ostrich farming here in the 1990 lol!

    Entire male animals of most domesticated animals can be dangerous (not to mention humans!) as my ex found out almost a year ago. A bull got him up against the fence in the yard then drove him into the ground. Broke 5 ribs and his scapula (shoulder blade, dominant hand side) and scored himself his first helicopter ride in case he had internal injuries >_<

  16. I was searching the subject of “do deer bite?” when I accidentally ame upon this very cute, accurate and funny story! Thanks!

  17. I was searching the subject of “do deer bite?” when I accidentally came upon this very cute, accurate and funny story! Thanks!
    The reason I was looking was because I live on the edge of the city but we have a lot of deer here. Recently 2 new bucks showed up and one is especially aggressive, trying to eat all the food we put out for the deer to try to help them make it through the cold hard winters here in Canada. This aggressive buck finally just recently lost his antlers, which is a relief to all of the other does and fawns that he was chasing trying to impale if he found them anywhere nearby! Yesterday I looked out only to see him chasing a doe off with the same snorting aggression and speed-(although antler-less) but this time he was running full speed at her while making fierce biting motions with his mouth as he chased her!! I am an avid deer watcher and this was a first for me!! I actually couldn’t believe it. So I decided to see if anyone else has witnessed this kind of aggression before-and I stumbled upon your story as I searched! Very entertaining!

    • Thanks for your comment, and especially your observations.

      Wild animals have individuality, just like we do. Sometimes you notice an animal, or even a bird, who simply stands out from the crowd. Your buck sounds like a bit of a bully.

  18. A deer came into our yard today, which is not abnormal. That changed when the deer charged and bit my pug and then went after my roommate. 😦

  19. Hilarious. Loved it. He deserved what he got from deer. Deer protected herself.
    I feed deer and love watching them beatiful animals.

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