BY CAMERON CASTLE
Whidbey Life Magazine Contributor
June 22, 2016
WARNING: If you happen to be a person who loves deer so much that they can do no wrong, and jokes about deer are not funny but offensive, stop reading.
If you keep a public tally sheet of deer mishaps, PLEASE stop reading.
Now, if you happen to be an avid deer hunter, also please stop reading. You are guaranteed to feel insulted.
For the six of you on this island that fall between those groups, read on!
Seven years ago, on a misty autumn morning, shortly after moving to Whidbey Island, I called my three-year-old son to the back window. “Look Carter, deer! Three of them, just strolling on our property. They’re lovely. Here, I’ll open the door. Wow, look how they run. They bound. The little one is bouncing on all four legs like as if on springs. Nature. Oh, my . . .”
Fast forward to yesterday evening, a bottle of Liquid Fence® in my hand, stumbling to slip on my shoes. Grumbling. “Those misersable, rotten . . . grancrablick, grrr, errr.” I sounded like the dad in “A Christmas Story” after the Bumpass dogs ate the turkey. I am like that all the time. “Rats with hooves!”*
I, like a complete imbecile, decided it would be nice to plant some things I like on our property. What was I thinking? In my previous homes I always grew magnificent roses. Ha. When I planted my marvelous rose plants, they were to the deer as a plate of warm chocolate chip cookies would be to a table of hungry teenagers.
The deer eat everything. That’s not accurate. The deer only eat things I care about. We live on five acres surrounded by woods. There is enough for the deer to eat even if their population grew to the hundreds—on our property. But, no. They wander out of the woods, mosey over, and nip off my 16 new, happy, perky, perfectly formed, sweet-smelling rose buds. I can just picture a deer, her top lip scrunched back, little front teeth plucking off delicate tidbits. The total amount of sustenance in those little bites is practically nothing to the girth of that mother deer.
Some of you are thinking, “They love the smell and taste of those roses. Of course they eat them.” Yeah, sure. Like these deer have some refined palate.
“Debbie, over here. These roses are called ‘Orange Sherbet’ and—golly gee—I think I can taste it. Yum.”
They eat the roses because they know I love them.
I will walk out in the morning and the decimation is tragic. But it’s just the stuff I love. Hydrangeas? Gone. Lilac tree? Slaughtered. The carnage is so complete it’s like it’s executed as a military op.
“Okay folks, listen up. We are hitting the Castles at oh-four-hundred hours. Now we’re going to split up into groups: Becky, Bucky, you two are on flowers. We are talking roses, geraniums, columbine. Anything with blooms or buds. And this time I want the dahlias hit. I know, Becky, they’re bitter. But that’s not the point. We’re going there to inflict harm.
“Okay, our intel says he’s planted new tree seedlings, and he loves them. Rodney? How are those antlers feeling?”
“Itchy as hell, Sir.”
“Excellent. Now remember. You’re scraping off the bark ALL THE WAY AROUND. If you leave a third or so like last time, that tree might make it. I need you to focus.”
“Fruit trees. Elva, you been practicing the hind-leg stand? How far up can you get? “
“At least eight feet, Sir.”
“Excellent. Munch your heart out. I want him to come out in the morning and, instead of seeing his beloved apple tree, I want him to see a big green umbrella.”
“Okay, we got word he’s planted his garden. Big Foot, oh, sorry. Forgot you hate that. Bessie—just jump in. Jump out. Couple passes with those clod-hoppers, that garden will be toast.
Everybody know what to do?”
“What about his strawberries, Sir”
“Good catch, Biff. But that’s me. I know that one hurts him the most. So, let’s meet back here at oh-three-hundred. Go get some rest.”
When one is attacked, one has to defend oneself. I’ve tried a lot of stuff. The first advice I got was to pee around the areas I wanted left alone. Besides all the reasons I don’t need to list here of why that isn’t a great idea, the main one is, as I mentioned before, we live on five acres. The amount of coffee and, possibly, beer I would have to imbibe before noon to simply produce the volume needed is quite undoable.
Next was the strategy of fishing line between poles that the deer can’t see as they bump into it. Theory is—their little pea-sized brains can’t figure it out and it spooks them. Crazy thing is, it works! It actually works. Until one’s roses have grown to luxurious heights in naïve, false feelings of comfort and safety. Because when those roses are finally awe-inspiring, the deer just say: “F**k the spooky invisible string. CHOMP!”
Next, Bobex® Spray deer repellent. Worked pretty good. But two drawbacks. The deer get used to it. And before that, it only repels deer from the leaves and buds that have the stuff on them. If the buds grow up over night, the deer just reach past the stinky parts and nibble away.
When I catch deer in the act, I scream and run at them in an effort to terrorize the deer and make them think twice about coming back. They just stand there and look at me. Once, one had a branch of my apple tree in its mouth. I picked up a rock off the driveway and, ala my old Little League days, pegged her right in the rib cage. It made a hollow plunk sound. The deer stopped chewing. Looked down at the stone and sniffed. Resuming her chewing, she looked back at me like, “Did you see that?” “Yeah, I saw it. I threw it!”
I don’t ever want to actually hurt a deer, but I am planning on whapping one with a whiffle ball bat.
That brings me to deer hunting. I’m so confused. How difficult could it be to shoot one of these things? I could walk up to it and smack it in the head with a golf club if I wanted.
I have a hunter friend who says, “We hunt them for food.”
Okay, I can buy that. But if you’re hunting them for food, I would think you should have to beat one to death with a soup ladle. We could start a whole new thing. Chef/Hunter. I can picture a couple of guys sitting around the “Rod and Bun Club.”
“Yeah, I prefer my eight-ounce stainless steel ladle. Some guys can get by with your four-ouncer, but not me. I like that “swopp twang” sound you can only get from the big boy, the eight-ouncer.”
They could take it to higher levels.
“Hey, Fred, heard you got one last week with kabob skewers. Impressive. Sounds a little messy if you ask me. Jim, what about you?”
Adjusting his 12-inch paper chef hat, enhanced with the camouflage of basil leaves and bunches of thyme, leaning back, he says, “Well, boys, I’m bagging my next one with a turkey baster. Don’t ask.
But now I have found Liquid Fence®. I’m sure I have disappointment just waiting around the corner, but for now it’s working. Very well. I don’t know how they accumulate all that coyote urine, but who cares, it’s working like a charm. I do order the stuff in 55-gallon drums delivered on flatbed trucks. But it works.
Today I’m happy. My roses are magnificent. I have flowers galore. And my apple tree is nervous but, as yet, unchomped. All is well.
I do have to add, though: if—tomorrow morning—I walk out on my deck, and my barrel that’s teeming with a rainbow of wafting petunias is merely a barrel of stems, you might see a crazed lunatic screaming and running across his property, madly wielding, a four iron.
Just look away.
Cameron Castle is an author and a stay-at-home dad. His recently published memoir is entitled, “My Mother Is Crazier than Your Mother.” He lives on Whidbey Island.
Photo at top by David Welton
*A line from Lewis C.K.
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