By Gary Lloyd
I have never killed a deer. Heck, I’ve never stared at one through the scope of a Remington or from atop a deer stand strapped tight to a tall oak.
No, for most of my life I’ve only seen deer from a heated seat of a Hyundai Tucson or Kia Sorento, through the dog-nose-smudged passenger windows. It’s happened while slowly driving through the impeccable Cades Cove in Tennessee or motoring down Highway 119 to a high school football game at Lions Pride Stadium or Heardmont Park.
I now see them all the time.
We live on a piece of property in Trussville that backs up to some deep woods, where the hum of flowing traffic fades and the tap-tap-tap of squirrels trampling the fallen leaves is intensified. I pray these woods are never destroyed by yellow excavators or profit-hungry speculators, because this city has grown large enough, and the deer have little natural space left to access without running into the pavement of another subdivision. We see them almost daily here, and from every direction. I’ve seen eight-point bucks carefully ease down the hillside as if it’s a set of slippery stairs, spotted tiny fawns stumble across the back yard, and trusting does barely look up when they set off the motion floodlights in our front yard.
Upon moving here, I quickly realized that we were surrounded by wildlife. An owl, perched atop our fence, greeted me as I took the trash out one night. Hawks often soar overhead, and one time I watched a dozen black crows chase it through the sky. Pileated woodpeckers have shown up on several occasions and bashed their faces into the pines. More cardinals hang out here than at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. We’ve seen steely coyotes, pesky raccoons, yard-destroying armadillos, nervous turkeys and, of course, dozens of deer. I bought a gravity feeder that straps around a tree and holds up to forty pounds of corn. The deer emptied it daily. I upgraded to a tripod feeder that holds thirty gallons in its hopper, which I may appreciate as much as the deer.
The tripod stands in our back yard, about as close to our fenced yard as to the first towering pines in the woods, and sprays corn in all directions five times per day. This setup gives me a perfect view of the visiting deer from my bedroom window. Mostly, does come with their fawns in the morning, almost always around 7:15 a.m. Sometimes they show up in the middle of the afternoon. The bucks come in the black of night, and they share the space with the raccoons.
I have several friends who have seen my game camera photos and requested permission to bolt their tree stands back there. They promise to be quiet, that I won’t even know they’re there, and to contribute deer meat to my chest freezer. I even have a high school football coach friend who, minutes before kickoff of a recent playoff game, talked to me on the sideline not about the game, but about the deer in my back yard. One of my uncles often says that I must be buying “that good corn.”
To every request to hunt these woods, I answer succinctly: No. I have no desire to kill a deer or have one on my property killed, and that’s not a political statement. Don’t praise me for these words, PETA, because I eat enough Chick-fil-A to make your head spin. It is glorious chicken.
I’m just not a hunter. I’d love to go for the quiet, for the camouflaged camaraderie with buddies, for the time admiring the orange and yellow leaves that seem to just smolder in the sky. But to kill one? It’s just not in me. I much more enjoy watching the fawns grow and scamper across our back yard, studying the cautiousness of the young bucks, and scrolling through hundreds of game camera photos, some of which are downright hilarious.
Now that hunting season is wrapping up and spring is on the horizon, I hope the deer emerge from the woods more often. I’ll be sure to leave the floodlights on for them.
Gary Lloyd is the author of six books and is a contributing writer to the Cahaba Sun.