The Fearless Deer of Pokagon

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Deer are so common in Indiana that sometimes we forget they were once wiped out in the state. Now they're back, wiping out cars instead, so you really don't have to try to hard to see some. Still, seeing them up close doesn't happen too often, unless it's in that instant when you stand on your brake and yell, "Oh, crap".


Earlier this year I was hiking on trail 9 at Pokagon State Park. Trail 9 is the one marked "rugged" ... which is a relative thing, as I've been on more rugged trails in other parks, but it's still a bit of a challenge. I was on a ridge, wishing for an excuse to stop and catch my breath, when I saw two deer standing on the next ridge over.


Sadly I didn't have my camera with me, but I did have my cell phone in case I needed to call in an ambulance to haul me out of there. It turns out those things have cameras on them. Who knew? So I stood there as still as I could, zoomed all the way in, and tried to get a decent photo of them before they ran off, which one soon did.


Then a strange thing happened.




The second one decided if I was checking her out, it was only fair that she check me out. So she got closer ...






And closer ....











And we ended up in a staring contest, only about 25-30 feet from each other.



Hoping to seem less threatening, I tried to crouch down. It was probably all the creaking bones and cracking joints that scared her off, and last time I saw her, she was standing with the other one on the same ridge where they started.


You can see deer close up at various places, but there's something about standing in the open and going nose to nose with an animal just as curious about me as I was about it. It was, in other words, very cool.


Leroy Added Sep 30, 2017 - 7:16am
There were no deer around when I was growing up.  No one hunted in the county.  It's altogether different today.  They are everywhere.  I've seen them leap the fences of the factory compound.  One smashed through a glass panel when he ran into it, killing himself.  People are killed every year when running into deer on backroads.  One was beheaded by a deer coming through the windshield.  Without hunting, they would be out of control.
A friend of a friend took pictures of a deer that approached him and let him pet her.  I wouldn't have believed it without all the pictures.
It's always cool to see these creatures when walking through the woods.    But, you don't have to go to the woods to see them anymore.  You may find them grazing in your front yard today.
Thanks for sharing.
Stone-Eater Added Sep 30, 2017 - 12:32pm
A friend of a friend took pictures of a deer that approached him and let him pet her.  I wouldn't have believed it without all the pictures.
Nice. They have the same right to live as we have.
Bill H. Added Sep 30, 2017 - 3:56pm
If the natural predators are eliminated, their prey will flourish.
Nature's balance is pretty much a thing of the past.
It will end up being our own demise.
Mark Hunter Added Sep 30, 2017 - 5:56pm
You're absolutely right, Leroy. My area is very high in car-deer accidents. Go driving  at dusk or dawn in the fall especially, and you're taking your life into your hands.
Mark Hunter Added Sep 30, 2017 - 5:59pm
A few natural predators are coming back to this area, Bill: coyotes, foxes, and a few wolves have started showing back up. But they become victims of cars, too.
Bill H. Added Sep 30, 2017 - 9:47pm
People no longer look at the road, they are too busy updating their Facebook page while driving. Critters are now part of the increased body count.
Mark Hunter Added Sep 30, 2017 - 9:49pm
Like they needed any help getting hit!
Glenn Verasco Added Oct 1, 2017 - 1:25am
Thanks for sharing your encounter!
I live in Thailand. The national parks here have plenty of deer. They are quite a bit larger and darker than the one you ran into and are, for the most part, tame. You can walk right up and put your hand on them if you'd like.
Roadkill out here tends to be of the canine variety, which is sad. People keep their dogs outdoors, and they run out into the road with great frequency. I've seen dogs get hit (including my brother-in-law's). That's heartbreaking every time. I hit one on my motorbike once. I was coming down the road, and he ran right out in front of me just as I was passing by. He could not have possibly chosen a dumber route to run. He had run off before I could turn back, so I guess he was okay.
Mark Hunter Added Oct 1, 2017 - 9:53am
Most of our deer wouldn't get as close to a person as this one did, which is maybe for the best. We also get dog accidents here,  it not as often: in my county it's against the law to let dogs run free. Some people do it anyway, of course. I put mine on a line when he's outside--he wouldn't run away deliberately, but he would follow an interesting scent and get lost.
Mark Hunter Added Oct 2, 2017 - 1:43pm
Yes, they are--although I don't hunt myself, I get deerburger and other cuts from friends and family.
Mark Hunter Added Oct 2, 2017 - 6:36pm
I'd never heard of Sika deer before ... now I've learned something new!
Leroy Added Oct 2, 2017 - 7:31pm
"Yes, they are--although I don't hunt myself..."
There must be some irony there.  Mark Hunter is not a hunter.
Mark Hunter Added Oct 2, 2017 - 11:32pm
I've joked about that myself, Leroy. They have regular hunter education programs around here, so I wrote a whole column about wanting them to educate me. Turns out the barrel points out.
But the idea of climbing out of bed before dawn, going out in freezing weather, and sitting in a tree stand for hours on in just isn't my idea of a good time. I hunt my deer the way other non-hunting Hoosiers do: in a speeding car.
Mark Hunter Added Oct 3, 2017 - 2:06am
We'll, I shot at a bird with a BB gun once ... and missed.
Leroy Added Oct 3, 2017 - 5:55am
I'm not much for getting up before dawn and freezing my behind off either.  I'm not that dedicated.  If I manage to do any this year, it will be from ground level.  But, there is nothing like sitting in the tree in the afternoon after a rain shower and watching the deer come out at dusk.  You might see ten or twenty at a time, mostly doe, of course.  The bucks meet their end doing what most men do in their early years--chasing tail.
Mark Hunter Added Oct 3, 2017 - 6:02am
True! I do like going to the same places outdoorsmen go ... but I only shoot things with my camera. But to be clear, I'm not against hunting--I just don't do it myself.
Leroy Added Oct 5, 2017 - 8:19am
The closest thing to a talk about the birds and the bees was a story about tail when I was a teenager.  It went something like this.  A squirrel scampered across the road one day.  Just as it reached the other side, a car ran over the tip of its tail.  The squirrel whipped its head around to look, just as another car took his head off.  The moral of the story is, "Don't lose your head over a piece of tail."
Mark Hunter Added Oct 6, 2017 - 12:17am
That's darned good advice!
Dale Murrish Added Oct 30, 2017 - 9:10pm
I went camping with the Boy Scouts at Pokagon, so it brings back memories.
There are a lot of deer in our city of Troy, Michigan. Rochester Hills to the north of us has the most car-deer crashes in the state. 
Frequently there are three does in our back yard. Just this evening a nice buck with an injured rear leg was limping through the yard. He must have been hit by a car. We called the police, but it was getting dark and he was not to be found when I went out to try to locate him.
Mark Hunter Added Oct 30, 2017 - 11:28pm
I think I accidentally deleted your link, Dale ... deer are more friendly to me than technology is. But they sure do get around, don’t they? We had one walking around town last night, and we can’t drive from here to Pokagon without seeing a few dead ones, especially along I-69.

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