On an evening walk last week, I startled a doe and her yearling that were bedding down under an oak tree at the edge of a grassy clearing. The breeze at my back carried my human scent to the deer. To them, the aroma held a hint of danger, making them raise their ears, flare their nostrils, and stand perfectly still, fixing their gazes in my direction. I knew when they stood that they had spotted me, and I in turn froze in my tracks. Twitching their ears ever so slightly, they waited for me to make the next move - exactly what I was doing. Finally I turned my head a little to the side, and they instantly spun around and bounded away into the woods. Their bushy white tails waved like flags as they rapidly put distance between me and them. It's a treat to get such a good look at white-tail deer, but I must apologize to them for interrupting their quiet time.
Deer are on my mind each mid-November, because I know the time is approaching when they scatter to the winds. Deer gun-hunting season will give them a new sense of why they should fear two-legged creatures. They will literally run for their lives, as the loud guns could mean death for them.
It's a sad time for me, knowing that it could be several months before I see a deer in this valley. Oh, I may see some tracks now and then, but the deer will be careful to not be seen.
Through the months of December, January and February, I find myself watching the places where I usually see deer. From the window near my drawing table, I can see deer in the evenings more often than not. Once the shooting starts, they stay hidden until after dark.
We've been blessed with pleasant weather lately in southwest Wisconsin. Daytime temperatures have been in the fifties, with lows around 40 degrees at night. It's allowed me to get some extra things done around the yard and gardens.
One morning, the warm weather also brought the sharp odor of skunk. He must have been snooping around the house sometime in the night, and left his calling card. A opossum, too, had searched the property for food one night, leaving his star-shaped tracks in the mud by the compost heap. When temperatures drop back to freezing, the 'possum may find hibernation more comfortable than the biting cold.
A few ladybugs flew around in the warm mid-day sun, while a group of tiny flies hovered in a tight mass over the garden. A miller fluttered up from under the porch to rest on the top step, and a black ant scurried past. Warmth on the stream meant that several water striders were still gliding across the surface. I remember seeing them during the first week of December last year, but soon the cold will be unbearable for these fair-weather creatures, and they will go into hiding until spring.
If you are planning a vacation or short trip this winter, don't forget to consider the birds at your feeders. It might be a good idea to have a friend or neighbor put seed out for the wild birds while you're gone. They would not starve, but they would go elsewhere to find food, and might not be around when you get back. It's nice to be greeted when you return, and the wild birds are very good at that.
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