Those of you who have followed this blog for a while know that the area around The Lair is infested with deer.
Alas, come hunting season, I'd spent time sitting on my chair watching them every day. I could tell them apart, I knew which fawns had come from which does, and far too many of them had informal names. It just kind of happened, and by rifle season, the idea of harvesting them was off the table.
It's been going on for years now. While I loves me some good venison same as any other American, the ones that come into my yard and walk right up to the back door get a pass; they're protected and safe from harm, at least so long as the're in the yard. These are MY deer.
And they're pretty much tame, to be fair. When they hear me throw the corn, some of them--a pair of young bucks in particular, run down towards me like dogs at dinnertime. If there's no corn out there, the deer will often wait, backing off a bit when I come out to throw some, but never actually running off. They know I have corn only for them and they want if more than they fear me.
But this afternoon, as I looked out and saw deer looking for their snack, I noticed one of the deer--a doe--was limping. Looking closer, I could see that her left front leg was broken, flexing unnaturally every time she put her weight on it to walk. I could just make out bone protruding through the skin and I can only imagine what that has to feel like.
Actually, no. I don't have to imagine at all. I can identify with that deer. Only in the case of the deer, I know that there's no fix. No vet helicopter is coming and no doctor or hospital is going to set and cast that leg. She's going to keep hobbling on that broken leg in constant pain until she dies. Fuck.
I made my decision. As I hobbled up to the gun room on MY messed-up leg, I called the Sheriff's Dept. and let them know that I was going to put this deer down unless they wanted to come out and do it. As expected, they didn't want to, but they blessed my action on a recorded phone line as I selected a special rifle, turned on the optics, loaded and inserted the magazine, and made my way to the kitchen door. The deer was still there, just ten to twelve yards off. As I slid the door open, she looked at me like the deer always do when I step out to feed them. But then, inexplicably, she seemed to know that this time was different. As I brought the rifle up and took the safety off, she stepped back behind a couple of trees.
She didn't run away. The other deer that were around her picked up the same message and they left, but she stayed there behind those trees, watching me. I braced the rifle on the door frame and brought the sight to bear. For a brief second, she gave me a perfect straight-on chest shot, but as I centered the dot on her and took up the trigger slack, she stepped back behind the trees again, giving me just a glimpse of half of her head. I moved the dot up, but it wasn't enough of a target to take the shot at. I locked my arm in the sling and steadied the rifle, using the door frame as a rest. I just needed a bit more deer and I'd finish this. There was plenty of corn on the ground right in front of her, and as soon as she bent her head down to grab the first kernel...
But she didn't. She knew. Somehow she knew. And the deer that would have ignored me on any other occasion just stood there, watching me with one eye, the rest of her head and body behind those trees. And for over a minute, we stood there looking at each other, not ten yards between us, me with the safety off and my finger on the trigger.
And then she backed up, keeping the tree between us. And then she was gone. I sighed and put the safety back on, feeling like I'd failed that deer in a duty that I'd owed her.