Oh Deer!

We all have a love/hate relationship with deer. Aside from the occasional hosta raid, I really haven't minded their presence. Nor do I have the 'Poor Bambi' mentality. They are the ultimate survival experts! Hunting, development, disease, and road kill still don't seem to curb their numbers.

When I see them it is always by accident; if I look for them I never see one. How perfectly they camouflage themselves, changing from cinnamon red in the spring/summer, to a mule gray in the winter. Suddenly what l thought was a log, has sprouted ears that flutter. A falling leaf is a twitching tail. That snowy mound suddenly shakes, or steam from their nostrils gives them away. I love their gamey smell, a scent somewhere between fresh air, wood smoke, and sage.

We have had a buck taking refuge on our 8 acres this fall. Once he happened along the creek, and being downwind, I just laid on the ground and he walked right past me. Another time, while walking, I saw this big white thing, which turned out, was his belly as he laid sleeping on his side in a soft nest of wetland grasses, in the sun, by the water. He is a little guy, with antlers barely the length of my index finger.

The last time I saw him (from our window) he was sleeping down on the forest floor for hours. I would check every so often to see if he was still there. Then another deer approached him. It was a small female. She circled him as he lay pressed up against a tree away from the wind and cold rain.
He did not acknowledge her, as she circled again, and put out her scent. I thought, “Ooh boy this should be good!" But still he did not even get up.

Then I noticed that she was moving in a strange way. More than a limp, she did not put her hind leg down. Was it broken? And then, there it was. Through the binoculars I could see a hole in the top of her leg. The wound looked old, perhaps from a bow and arrow.

I didn't know what to do! Should I call somebody? Who? And by the time someone would get here, she'd be long gone. How amazing that the buck knew not to have contact with her! Regretfully, I decided to just let nature take its course.

I was left with many questions such as:
What age do deer start mating?
How long do they live?
What should I do when I see an injured animal?
What exactly are the hunting regulations around here?

  • Deer start mating just after their first year.
  • Life expectancy of deer in the wild could be up to 11 years, but many mature adults are taken by hunters. In most cases the average age is only 1 and a half years! Some deer in controlled environments have lived up to 20 years. They are weaned from their mothers at 8 months.

If you see an injured animal, NEVER approach it.
Call your local DEP or state police. Sadly, almost all of the deer shot by bow and arrow, are not killed. Escaped deer run off to die of crippling wounds over a number of weeks.

According to NYS DEP:

  • Regular hunting season is from November - December.
  • Bow season: lasts 6 weeks.
  • Young bucks whose antlers are not visible can legally be considered does.
  • Hunting should be from sunrise to sundown, so if your hear shots after dark or at 4 am, it is not normal.
  • Farmers are exempt from most hunting regulations.

Shots should never be fired less than 500 feet from a dwelling.
For more interesting facts, specific regulations, or to report violations, contact:
NYS Dept. of Environmental Protection at www.dec.state.NY.US or call: 845-256-3098.
For more fascinating information about deer, visit www.worlddeer.org.

Pat Laine is a 8 year resident of Clinton. She owns and operates Little Creek Therapeutic Massage. She shares her home with her husband Will and their two Maine Coon Cats. Whether from walking in the woods, or from their vantage point overlooking Little Wappingers Creek and its environs, they observe the miracles of wildlife and plant life on a daily basis.