Disappointment melts my enthusiasm as I look over a few acres of heavily grazed plants. I had been saving this special spot as a pick-me-up to mark the end of long garlic mustard spray season. Anticipating swaths of red flowers tended by an occasional hummingbird, I instead find columbine stubble, all victims of a voracious deer herd. My eyes find a tan-colored, circular pattern with white spots contrasting slightly with the sun-mottled ground vegetation. “One of the bloody culprits,” I scorn.
A short distance away lies a whitetail deer fawn. Unimpressed, I prepare to move on but realize it’s lying in a firebreak I plan to mow later. Reluctantly, I conclude, I’ll have to move it out of harm’s way. I walk closer to the fawn, the third one I’ve found today, hoping it will get the hint and flee. It doesn’t stir. Standing over it, I can see it’s a newborn, perhaps less than a week old. At this age, odorless fawns freeze in place, hoping predators will pass them by.
Great, I think, I’m going to have to physically move this thing. Not wanting to remove my herbicide protection gear nor get any herbicide on the fawn, I grab a nearby stick to use as a tool. My eyes lock onto the fawn. She’s eerily still, except for a slight rapid movement of her nose. She’s a perfect miniature deer - tiny nose, hooves and long eye lashes. I can feel her charm spell starting to work on me, so I get on with it and gently push her a few feet away with the stick.
She’s off the firebreak now, still curled in a ball and leaning on a goldenrod plant with her feet pointing to the sky. “You look ridiculous; I can’t leave you like this” and use the stick to put her in a prone position tucked neatly under some plants.
Job finished, my mind says move on, but my eyes are glued to the fawn. My thoughts speak to the fawn.
Your mother will be the center of your universe for the next few months. She will teach you what to fear, what to ignore, where to rest, and where to feed. She will teach you which plants are most delicious, and which plants are disgusting. You will learn from her where these yummy plants live, and when it’s the best time to eat them. You will learn that many of these yummy plants are not common, available in only a few places in your world. She will teach you that speed is of the essence, and how best to find these delicious morsels before other members of your herd do.
I’m here to tell you there’s a better way. As you become your own doe, it’s time to thank your mother and pursue your own path. It’s a new age, and the old ways don’t work well anymore. Our world has changed. Why fight and compete with your fellow deer for a few morsels of ancestral, and often endangered, food. Learn to live a life of plenty. More food and leisure than any deer before you ever thought possible.
It’s all so simple. Learn to love to eat invasive species. They’re everywhere. Just imagine how easy it will be to get your fill. Think about it; many of these invasive species leaf out earlier and stay green longer than any of those hard-to-find native plants. Heck, some invasive species stay green year round! It’s a no-lose proposition.
Talk about a boon to your social life. You will be the biggest, strongest doe. You’ll get the meanest, “baddest” buck each year. You’ll easily make herd matriarch, and can teach all your daughters, sons, grandchildren, great grandchildren, great-great grandchildren and so forth the new ways. Your tribe will be the dominant herd of the land.
I look away from the fawn. “A mark of a desperate man,” I think, “trying to convince a newborn to do my bidding, to right the careless ways of us humans.”
I leave the fawn, push the tempter feeling aside, and cling to the thought that maybe, just maybe, it’s possible.
Editor’s note: For those of you worried about the fawn, the mother moved it before David mowed the area.