This morning three whitetail bucks dallied just below the woodshed. Bucks gather up and start running together this time of year, and you know why. The last of the apples are off the tree, the morning air puts a little sniff in your nose, and the ungulate’s eternal urge returns. Two of the bucks had small racks. They were out front, leading the way while the big guy hung back.
Deer are hardly rare around these parts. Nor does their presence necessarily connote remoteness. I’ve written previously about the friend who spent the entire day freezing in his deer blind on our back forty only to be obstructed on the drive home by a buck crossing the street in his suburb; the following night he phone-photo’d the deer posing beneath a speed limit sign. I’ve also watched a doe nurse her fawn mere feet from our front porch. This spring during a break in a thunderstorm I stepped out of my room over the garage and watched two tiny fawns cavorting on the wet driveway beneath a green tunnel of trees. At one point they got up on their hind legs and hoof-boxed. Fifty-four years and I’d never seen that before.
So deer in the yard are just slightly less common than chickens in our yard. But I also remember my youth, when we might go an entire fall and see but a handful of deer, let alone a trio of antlers, and so I called to my wife and we stood at the window to watch the bucks.
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There was a lot of sniffing and posturing from the small pair. We couldn’t see a doe, and apparently neither could they, but they were putting their noses to the air and curling their upper lips. I am told they curl the lip to trap and hold scent in the nostrils. Don’t know if it’s true but it’s definitely the kind of thing you can drop into conversation down at the feed mill if you’re looking to divert attention from the fact that your hands are soft and you type for a living.
The pair began to frisk, then started circling each other. Soon they were jousting, locking up their six-point racks and trying to twist each other to the ground. They separated, then came together again in a rattle of antlers.
Just when it looked like we’d see a legendary tussle, the two separated again and bopped off down the trail and into the brush. Perhaps they had scented a doe. Perhaps they were just skittery teens who couldn’t maintain focus.
The big guy followed. He didn’t trot or hop, he just kept a steady pace, following but maintaining his distance. My wife and I went back to our day, grateful for the simple diversion. Later it would occur to me that when those two finally did find a doe, they were in for a disappointment when Mister Big closed the gap and closed the deal.
An original “Roughneck Grace” column exclusive to the Wisconsin State Journal. Audio versions may air on “Tent Show Radio” (tentshowradio.com). Read more from Michael Perry at www.sneezingcow.com.