By Rick Houser –
One evening last week as it was moving into the dusk of what had been a beautiful and sunny October night, I decided I would take a few steps outside to look at the world for a moment. 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 at the same as I stopped moving. After a minute of what resembled a Mexican standoff, they turned and disappeared into the woods.
I 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. This is an event that becomes more common every day. 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 unusual that it went into the rare sighting list. I don’t recall seeing a deer until I was almost out of high school and that was the late 1960’s. To spot a deer was as rare as an eclipse or a meteor shower. I know that our neighbor Ed Maus had a farm that ran back to the banks overlooking the Ohio Valley and in the summer he 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 put in there for the cattle. I begged him to take me back with him, but he refused. 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, he was probably right.
My Great Uncle Roy, who had a farm next to Ed’s, 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, which was still a sighting that really couldn’t be matched 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 staring at a fence along the 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.
The point I am making 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 1960’s and the mid 1980’s the population of the deer exploded. I have seen their presence increase every year since I was a teenager and let me say, that has been a few years. 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 deer 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. 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 soybeans and corn are reduced by the deer 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 five deer in the last seven years.)
Deer hunting is regulated closely and the number of people who want to hunt them has certainly increased. I, however, am anything but a great outdoorsman or hunter and since the deer 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 thenext deer will meet.
I still think back to the time when I would see a deer and sit perfectly still and watch 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, how rare was that? Mom didn’t really know how to prepare them so she breaded 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 still remember how good they were.
In my view, I see us going from one extreme to the other, it’s either too few or too many. It is like so much in our lives and the world around us. If only we could just balance it all out. Sounds good and if you think I am about to deliver the answer to that, you might want to 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 cohabitate 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, One last thought, 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. If you wish he may be able to speak to your group. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.