My Close Encounter with a Mule Deer

By: Gail Veley
Originally appeared in the December 2019 Issue of the Upper Midwest Cervid Newsletter

As l was standing at my kitchen sink early one recent beautiful October morning, my two dogs-started going frantic. Looking out from the house at their fenced-in backyard, something really had their attention. Accustomed to them sounding the alarm if a cat is outside their fence, or a neighborhood dog is waiting to be let into my unofficial dog park, this frantic behavior had a very different vibe. 

Unlike the howls both bellow out when an emergency vehicle screams down the two-lane highway my house sits on, there was a bigger sense of urgency about their behavior. It was clear they weren’t about to start howling, always led off first by my border collie/heeler mix who, with the stance and bass vocal chords of a wolf, starts the ritual. Joining him right away is my Rhodesian Ridgeback/large beagle mix, whose high-pitched howls mimic a coyote yipping a warning. But there were no emergency vehicles going by, no cat and no visiting dog waiting to enjoy my small, quaint southern Utah meadow of a backyard with its thick carpet of green grass, four 30-foot tall spruce pines, an eager ever-growing Mulberry tree, a bumper-crop cherry tree and a hummingbird feeder. 

Instead, a stunning yearling mule deer buck was poised there. Too big to be born this year and yet not big enough to be considered full-grown, I decided quickly he had to be a yearling. The look of youth in any animal is practically unmistakable the - curious nature and innocent energy that accompanies a lean frame sure to put on muscle later. His eyes were bright, and he gleamed of good health. I stood frozen at a sight I’ve never seen before outside my kitchen window, certain this moment was not going to last long. In the 30 or so seconds I beheld this sight, I was already in love. What a beautiful breathtaking creature. Although, certain not to be 350” at two years old, his antlers were still as impressive as he was as he casually “hung out” by the fence. 

Then, practically as soon as he showed up, he bounded off filled with the high survival instincts all deer are born with. Immediately I was at the back door and with my dogs went racing outside to see where our visitor had gone. But he had vanished. My longing to follow him surprised me yet didn’t. Now I know why deer farmers are so captivated by their deer, I said to myself. I could be hooked, too. I now appreciate even more the passion and pride felt by every deer farmer I talk to or work with. I love living vicariously through you and bringing your farm to life through the feature farm stories I write for each magazine. I think I may also spend more time looking out the kitchen window when my dogs bark in the morning.