I have hesitated from telling this story because I don’t want to be considered for a tight fitting jacket with long sleeves that tie in the back. I’m sure some people would consider those who talk to wild animals candidates for a nice padded room. I’m not Dr. Doolittle, but I do seem to have a connection with deer and some other animals. Actually this is a true story and this is exactly how it happened. I have written previously about a buck mule deer we called Junior. He was just a little guy still in spots when his mother came around one day and as long as I would talk to her she would follow me around like my best friend. Junior and his twin brother would be bounding all over the place or would stand there and listen while I talked to them. I have no idea why they were enthralled with me but they seemed to be and came around often. Then one fall they all left and I didn’t see Junior again for a couple years. When he came returned he had grown up and had a nice set of antlers. He did not hesitate and walked right up to me and would take a slice of apple from my hand. I could rub his nose or pick ice balls off his forehead and he would make small mewing sounds.
Over the years Junior would come back and spend summers and fall with us. He developed quite a herd of deer that traveled with him. Junior would spend hours with me and follow me around while I would talk to him about a variety of topics. Some of the other deer would stand a few feet behind him and listen while I would talk to them all. Maybe that is how actors and actresses feel when they have an attentive and appreciative audience. I’m sure some readers are now thinking I’m totally crazy standing there talking to a bunch of deer that are wild animals. The fact remains that they never once in all those years gave me anything but respect, friendship and courtesy.
It was late winter and snow was scarce, much like this year, and this young buck that traveled with Junior was standing a few feet away listening as I talked to them. On a whim I told him if he would leave his forked antlers with me I would make them into a hat rack. He stood there for a few moments looking at me and then lowered his head and shook it real hard and one of those antlers fell off. I walked over and picked it up complete with the bloody stump while he stood there. Within a few moments he walked over to a small tree and rubbed the remaining antler against it and off it came too. I picked up the other antler and now had a set of matched antlers. I made the hat rack depicted in the photo out of those antlers and we then named him Hat Rack which he actually responded to. Now some would simply call this coincidence, but I had not broken eye contact with him when he shed that first antler. I have seen many such incidents in the course of living here and I believe that animals understand far more than we give them credit for. After being witness to a number of these situations, I believe wild animals are far smarter than we would imagine.
A few years later Hat Rack was hanging around again and I was out talking to him when I told him it was getting close to hunting season and I was worried for Junior as I had not seen him this year. After I said that he turned and walked away into the woods. Three days later I was looking out the side window and saw Hat Rack in the lead with Junior behind him and Junior’s twin brother bringing up the rear. Junior and Hat Rack hung around until I told them hunting season was over then they headed for lower meadows. Living with wild animals can be a very educational and interesting experience. I am convinced that wild animals have a sense and intelligence that we are not fully knowledgeable of. Sounds pretty far-fetched, but in actuality it is true and I’m happy to have experienced it regardless of what others may think of the situation.
For more about Bruce and Carol McElmurray and living with wildlife go to: www.brucecarolcabin.blogspot.com