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/ )
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”