I looked up and he surprised me, if I’m being honest. He stood about 50’ away, uphill in my neighbor’s garden. It wasn’t the closeness that startled me, but the fact that he was staring right at me.
I’ve lived at the foot of a mountain most of my life and I’ve seen my share of deer. Mostly they only appear in the neighborhood in winter. Occasionally a buck would accompany the does and fawns as they traveled from destination to destination but rarely have I ever found myself so close to an animal of this species at this time of year. In fact, I don’t think it’s ever happened before.
I left the house needing a picture—something to help me visually tell the story of the conversations I heard in church a few hours previous. Thistles I thought. I wasn’t sure if we had any thistle plants on our lot, but maybe there might be some on the hill. It’s been so long since I’ve even hiked a few vertical feet up the mountain, the mountain I once traveled to and over on a daily basis.
The neighbor dogs barked a few times which was not unusual. I had just crossed from pavement to dirt when I looked up and saw the buck staring at me.
Deer are skittish, to say the least. I’ve been closer to deer in my life—usually when either the deer or I are enclosed somewhere, either the deer in a cage or me in my house. But not on this day.
I quickly raised my point-n-shoot and snapped a picture, certain the movement or the noise or my scent (or all three…) would surely cause the majestic animal to turn and run up the mountain. He didn’t move a muscle; he just stared back at my bewildered eyes.
Pushing my luck, I took more time in taking the next couple of pictures. I zoomed in allowing me to get the best picture possible. I kept taking picture after picture. I even laughed out loud as the big buck calmly watched me capture the moment on my camera.
We stood apart for several minutes, each watching the other. The big buck turned his head but quickly whipped his head around when I took a step. He just stood there. The dogs didn’t even bark at him.
Eventually either he became bored, or maybe some other instinct caused the big animal with the visible scare on his side to turn and begin to walk away. As he did I noticed another horned head rise from the garden, another buck with smaller antlers was there. I laughed again.
I watched them both walk up the trail and away from civilization. I kept thinking as the buck unflinchingly stared at me that he wasn’t scared of me at all. Of course, had I kept walking toward the two deer, he might have run away—at least, that’s my experience with deer in the cul-de-sac. Maybe he would have charged me. I don’t know and never will know. But around 8pm last night, the two of just stared at each other and shared a moment of mutual respect.