Never did I see a whitetail buck act that way. Not that I ever saw too many of them over the years — I didn’t, especially not in the woods. Driving up Hatch’s Hill Road as I do several times a week, I got a half-second glimpse of a six-point buck out my passenger-side window. Rather than slow down, I went to the top of the hill and turned around in a driveway to go back and see if he was still there. “This is dumb,” I said to myself while executing the turn. “He’ll be long gone by the time I get back,” but there he was, looking right at me from behind a tree.
He’d climbed a steep bank and hopped a stone wall, but he stuck his velvet-antlered head up from behind a tree and looked at me without a trace of alarm. Still seated in my truck, I took out my camera, unlocked the lens, and took a few shots as he casually turned around and walked deeper into an overgrown field and out of my sight. I pulled to the side of the road and set my brake, got out, and climbed the steep bank after him to try for more pictures. Sure enough, there he was again standing broadside to me and munching on some shoots. I took several more shots.
All the while, I’m thinking: “This is not a game farm. I’m twenty feet away from a healthy, whitetail buck in the wild and he’s not a bit afraid of me.” At that point, he assumed an undignified posture and began urinating while I continued snapping pictures.
When he was finished, he just sauntered away, casually biting off more shoots as he went along, occasionally looking back over his shoulder at me. I continued snapping pictures.
Never once did he raise his tail in alarm to show the white underneath. That’s the part we humans usually see as those aptly named whitetail deer jump away from us. That was usually all I saw when I hunted them; by the time I got my gun up, they were gone. Whitetails were generally safe when I was in the woods but I was always excited to get out there again every year as November approached — until about twenty years ago, that is.
I’m not sure what changed, but the urge to hunt left me. My brother(s) would call and I’d tell them I wasn’t going out. “What?” they’d exclaim. “What’s happening to you?” Maybe it was remembering all the energy I expended hiking up and down hills all day and not even seeing a flag — that’s what we called the white tails we’d see on deer bounding away through the woods away from us. Maybe it was because I’d think of how much wood I could have split and stacked in the woodshed before snow fell instead of spending the entire day in futile pursuit of the elusive whitetail. Maybe it was because my testosterone levels were diminishing and my inner caveman was subduing itself commensurately.
The rest is here.