Horny Therefore Fearless: A Cautionary Tale

Beware of Bambi… No, seriously.

When I was twelve years old, my father enrolled me in a hunters’ safety course. I no longer hunt but my safety instructor told a story that every outdoors enthusiast — even (perhaps especially) non-hunters — should know:

A man — a city boy, of course — goes hunting with his country buddies. City boy has been hearing his buddies talk about how hunting is just the best and now city boy, too, wants to reaffirm his masculinity… errr… reconnect with nature.

So, he buys the best gear. With the tags still dangling from his Mossy Oaks, his buddies drop him by a tree stand overlooking a pasture littered with corn and, then, head toward their own stands and blinds.

Alone, city boy gets bored but, at dusk, a whitetail buck with a wide spread prances out of the forest and pauses to browse directly below city boy’s tree stand. City boy aims his never-been-fired Winchester at the top of the buck’s head but thinks, “Deer hunting’s not so tough. My buddies think they know. I’ll show them.”

He flicks his rifle’s safety on, secures the rifle to the tree stand, and slowly (silently) slides his hunting knife from its sheath. Then, he pounces atop the buck, aiming his knife between the buck’s shoulders, just behind its neck.

City boy’s buddies find him hours later, near death, lying in a bubbling puddle of his own blood.

Now, I don’t know if that story is true. Honestly, I doubt it (even sans artistic flair). But I believe it could happen and so should you.

With deer and elk in many parts of the lower-48 approaching peak rut and fall-foliage enthusiasts (an army of city boys) rushing to parks and forests, it is important to remember that deer and elk are wild and, at this time of year, horny and fearless. Throughout their websites, the National Park Service warns that park visitors are more likely to be harmed by deer or elk than (explicitly) bears, rattlesnakes, or (as bluntly stated on Yosemite’s Mammals webpage) “any other park animal.”

ElkVsPhotographer_YouTube
Elk “vs” “Photographer” (source: YouTube.com)

During the 2013 rut, a video of a tourist photographing a bull elk in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park went viral. (I’m not embedding the video because I don’t want to reward this behavior by directly endorsing views. If you must, search “Elk + Photographer” on YouTube and you’ll receive numerous videos of idiots with cameras making the same mistakes. Also, “Selfie + Rattlesnake” is just as embarrassing for humankind.) You may have seen the video before. Annoyed, the elk lowered his antlers and shoved the man — not hard by elk standards but elk are huge compared to humans. The elk’s motivation was clear — as though to say, “I don’t know you. I don’t like you. You are too close.”

On the Great Smoky Mountains website, NPS warns, “Willfully approaching within 50 yards (150 feet), or any distance that disturbs or displaces elk, is illegal in the park.” Keep your distance and keep your head. Deer and elk are astounding creatures. Seeing one up-close can be so awe-inspiring that it becomes easy to get lost in the moment or in a camera’s viewfinder.

That’s why I believe the City Boy story could happen. Deer and elk seem so familiar. They’re backyard creatures. They wash dishes with Snow White or frolic alongside Thumper. Yet, both species can be surprisingly territorial and unafraid of puny humans, especially during the rutting season when hormones and libidos soar.

September 2015, small city Ashland, Oregon, held a summit to address the rising problem of an aggressive deer population that had allegedly stalked, attacked, and generally harassed human-folk (and trampled small dogs). A press release on the city’s website warns, “No matter how cute and seemingly domesticated, these are wild creatures.  Their behaviors are unpredictable.” So, please be smart, be careful, and be respectful of wildlife no matter how cute and misrepresented by Disney. Parents, watch your kids. Hikers, watch the trail and the woods around you. Photographers, snap great photos but live outside the viewfinder. Because wildlife is just that — wild.

Interesting Stuff:

Living with Deer and Wildlife

Mammals – Yosemite National Park

Elk – Great Smoky Mountains National Park

*Featured image source: Wikimedia.org

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