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Who in his right mind would go camping solo in the Bootheel?

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New sustainability director Nick Sussillo

The Great Wasp War
The call went out to the lads of Silver City: This means war!

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The fledgling Las Cruces Vaqueros' field of dreams

Kiss of the Prairie Dog
Black-tailed prairie dogs once numbered in the billions

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About the cover

  D e s e r t   E x p o s u r e   July 2010


The Loner and the Seven

A tale of deer friends.

Maybe it's because I once hailed from one of the so called "big deer population" states — Pennsylvania — that I like, no, love deer so much.


I just came back from my usual dawn hike and spied a big mulie doe across the way from the house. She's a familiar figure, having lived here for all of the five years that I have in this valley.

I suppose that she's my favorite of all the deer that frequent the homestead; that's because she is a "loner" like myself. She seldom hangs with the crowd- a "contrare," if you get my drift.

My second favorite deer is her son, born the first year that we were here. In that time he went from being a small forked-horn up to being a very tall and wide 10-pointer.

Neither deer is much afraid of me or Buko my dog. That's because from the get-go, I have made it a point to stop and talk to them if they were within a hundred yards of me. Now they just put their heads up and stare and then go back to doing what deer do.

Last summer, our deer herd and the doe changed dramatically; I counted 24 different bucks come and go from early June until January. There were many does, too, including a large herd of 15 and another herd of eight.

Usually, in years past, there was my favorite doe and then about four other does. Now we were inundated with them! The bucks ranged in size from a spindly one-horned spike up to several 30-inch wide, 10- and 12-pointers.

In the herd of "the eight" was a lone forked horn, and this herd became regulars to the valley from last summer through last February. After the rut ended, I noticed that they became "the seven," and I pondered what had happened to the other. Had it been hit by a vehicle or run down by the occasional pack of town dogs?

In fact, the old doe had become a loner once again, and I began to see her regularly by herself; she had even forsaken the fawns of last year. So much for the Bambi syndrome and motherhood!

And how do I know that this is "my doe"? Well, she stands there and puts up with me as I talk to her. In fact, not only does she put up with me, but she actually ignores me!

She has strange habits, too. Instead of her whiling away the hot days under some oak bush, I regularly see her up and about and strolling past the house, nibbling an oak leaf here and there. She even came from the water trough up into the yard and ate the top of my one and only grape vine! I suppose that she has earned that right, having to endure me and such.

"The seven" came by yesterday, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that four of them were bucks. They were headed by the forked-horn of last year and he has potential already to become something this year.

The other three bucks are tiny deer with equally tiny two-inch, velvety stumps protruding from atop their heads. One in particular stands out because he is already showing dominance over the others; I've viewed him rearing up and pawing at another buck.

I suppose that one of "these three" was the one that stood across from me this morning and watched me come down the driveway. He kept looking back in to the brushy draw from which he had just emerged, and that is a good clue the others were right there. I didn't hang around to find out, though.

Most of my friends seem rather hardened to seeing a doe or a young buck; they get excited only when the critter sports huge antlers. On the other hand, I get excited at even the smallest doe or spindly buck; I never grow tired of viewing them. I suppose that all will end when I am finally five feet under!

Last year at this time (early June), there were two herds of 16 bucks total hereabouts, but they are noticeably absent this time around. So Buko and I began to regularly hike up the valley to the hidden spring in search of clues.

We found the tracks of "the eight" there, along with one huge and worn track, which I hope is from "my buck" — but I have yet to see its maker to know for sure.

When "the seven" showed up yesterday, I fetched up my Alpen binoculars so as to get a better look. That signaled that it is time to once again carry the glasses regularly until the rut ends again come February.

In another week or so, I will also fetch up my trusty old Olympus 35mm camera with its big, long telephoto, and begin to record antler growth, as I go for my hikes. That's just another form of "hunting" to me.

Sigh, isn't summer great!

As always, keep the sun forever at your back, the wind forever in your face, and may The Forever God bless you too!

When not ramblin' outdoors, Larry Lightner lives in Silver City.



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