The other evening as it was moving into the dusk of what had been a beautiful and sunny October evening I decided I would take a few steps outside to look at the world for a moment. But as I stepped off of my deck and out into my yard what do you think I saw? At the edge of our woods stood two big and beautiful deer! They had been munching on our acorns when they noticed me at about the same time I noticed them. They stopped what they were doing the same as I stopped my movements also. After a minute of what might be thought was a Mexican standoff they turned and disappeared into the woods.
I feel and hope that I just painted you a pretty picture of man meeting wildlife. But I will have to stop here and confess that this isn’t a rare meeting with nature. No this is more common an event each day we move forward. Our neighbor has a large litter of kittens but they pale in the number of deer that today populate southern Ohio.
There was a time when seeing a deer or even hearing that someone had seen one was so seldom that it went into the rare sighting list. I don’t recall seeing one until I was almost out of high school and that was the late ‘60s. To sight one was as rare as an eclipse or a meteor shower. I know that our neighbor Ed Maus who had a farm that ran back to the banks overlooking the Ohio Valley and in the summer would feed cattle back in one of the fields. It got to where a deer would come up to the feeding trough and lick on the block of salt he had set in there for the cattle. I begged him to take me back with him but he said no. He was afraid it would scare the deer away if it saw another person with him. I’m guessing that as fidgety as a little boy could be would probably have done the trick.
Also my Great Uncle Roy who had a farm next to Eds’ reported that a deer came in with his cattle when he called them to be fed and it was snowing. Since he had filled the mangers with hay the deer entered the barn and ate some of the hay and then ran away. Still a sighting that really couldn’t be topped for its time. Finally one June morning I was bringing a mechanic to our farm to work on a tractor when we saw a deer standing in the middle of Turkey-Foot Road looking at a fence along side of our property. The deer took off on a run and cleared a woven wire fence with two strands of barbed wire on top of it. I must say I had never seen an animal ever jump that high before. That was what the mechanic and I talked about all morning.
So what I am saying is that the deer had a place in our neighborhood that seemed to work for both us and the deer. They did their thing and we did ours. But somewhere between the late ‘60s and the mid ‘80s the population of the deer exploded. I have seen their presence increase every year since I was a teenager and let us say that has been a while. I googled for information about deer and it said the population for southern Ohio peaked out at approximately 880,000 in about 2005 and it was at 660,000 in 2015.
Today seeing a deer or herd of seer is about as common as seeing the sun come up. The animal is a beautiful animal and their meat feeds a lot of people each year. But we have run into a problem. I feel the conditions around here are great for a herd to increase and they are proving it. Talk to any farmer and he will explain to you how his crop productions of soy beans and corn are reduced by the herds grazing it. If that isn’t enough ask the motorists who travel this area. Car insurance is on the increase from all the cars that get hit annually. (Personally I have hit 5 in the last 7 years!)
Their being hunted is regulated closely and the number of people who want to hunt them surely has increased greatly. I however am anything but a great outdoorsman or hunter since they don’t stay in a field and just run helter skelter it is drivers be on your guard as one never knows when you and they will meet. (Surprise!)
I still think back to the time when I would see a deer and set perfectly still and watched until the deer was way out of sight. It was truly a sight to behold. I remember a friend giving my dad a package of deer steaks. Wow! Just how rare was that. Mom didn’t really know how to prepare them so she bread them in flower and added a couple of beef T-bones to the pan and prepared them. The blend of the two meats made for what was not only a new taste but a good taste. Sadly the offer never came to us for any more but I remembered how good they were.
In my view only I see us going from the one extreme to the other. Too few to too many. It is like so much in our lives and the world around us. If only we could balance it all out. Sounds good and if you think I am about to deliver the answer to that it is best you think again. To this day when I see a deer or a herd of deer I still marvel at the beauty of the animal and at the same time wonder just why can’t they learn to co-habitat with us. They don’t deserve to become extinct but I do say thanks to all those that hunt and to all of you who have had to use your car insurance thanks also! One last thought is hey it is deer season!
Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.