Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Lose the battles, win the war

There are times when I consider my life here in the Springs to be a war - a war with the deer over whether or not the plants in my garden will survive, over how much deer poop my children will have to step in while barefoot, and how much deer poop my dog will have to eat before she gets worms. Usually I lose the battles. The deer eat some of my "deer resistant" plants, the kids throw the little round pellets of poop at each other, and the dog will always have an affinity for poop of any kind. But, I have won the war. The deer who died in my yard two nights ago is likely the daddy deer to most of the deer who cause problems in my yard. In a few weeks that daddy deer will be mounted on a wall in my house.

Yes, that's what I said. Hillary Dickman, animal lover, will have a deer's head prominently displayed in her house.

Here's how it happened. Our eye doctor and friend, Jerry Hendricks, also happens to be a hunter. Over a few beers at our pool on drizzly summer nights we've had discussions about hunting. I can never understand how a man who appears to be so civilized can go hunting and enjoy it. He seems to get a rush from it and consumes almost every consumable part of whatever he kills. I knew when I took photos of the deer in our yard yesterday that he would appreciate the majesty of what the creature used to be, and I knew he'd know how to get its rack off before it got dragged off and eaten by coyotes. As soon as he got my email with a photo of the deer, he called to see if I wanted help. He came over in his camo jacket and his big pick up truck, carrying a saw and extension cord, with the intension of cutting off either the deer's forehead with antlers attached, or possibly the whole head. While we were out in the yard looking at the deer, he called the local taxidermist (whom he had programmed into speed dial, although he said he'd never gotten to use the number before). The taxidermist said to bring in the whole deer - that they would pay me for the deer's skin (can't remember the technical term for that - cape, maybe?) and mount the head for me.

So, Jerry told me to go grab an old tarp and gloves. He got the deer onto the tarp and we dragged it down off the hill, through the side yard, past the hot tub, and out to the driveway. He backed his truck into our neighbor's driveway which is (luckily) about four feet below ours. We unhitched the gate of his truck and Jerry pulled the buck into the bed of his truck. Of course, we made sure to get a few photos before dragging it into the truck.

I have to say, I was sad to see something that was formerly so majestic getting dragged around like a sack of potatoes, but I don't think there was a more dignified option for our buck. Jerry took him down to the taxidermist who offered to buy him for $150, do a European mount for $185, or a shoulder mount for around $400. I'm not sure I could stomach having the deer look at me inside my house all the time, so the shoulder mount was out. It's bad enough that this deer was probably one of the peeping toms I've caught looking in my window while I dress - I don't need him watching me make dinner, too. I didn't really want to sell the deer for $150 - he's worth more than that to me. So, we settled on the European mount. That's where they skin the deer's skull and lighten the color with bleach or peroxide and mount the skull (with 13-point rack still attached) to a plaque which we hang somewhere in our house. Where it will go is still to be determined.

I'm thinking about hanging it opposite a window so that when my peeping tom deer look into my house they can be reminded that no matter how much poop they leave or how many flowers they eat, I've won the war. Their daddy is hanging on a wall in my house.

As a note...if you ever have to deal with a large dead animal in your homeowner association's open space adjacent to your yard, here are two organizations that will not help you remove said large dead animal: the Colorado Division of Wildlife and the homeowner's association. I talked to both of them about the situation and neither had any reasonable suggestions for how to deal with the deer. The homeowner's association said that nature would take its course over the next few days (read: coyotes would gather 15 yards from my dog's potty station and eat the deer carcass). The Division of Wildlife simply said it wasn't their responsibility. I pressed with the question, "What, then, does the Division of Wildlife do, exactly, if you are not responsible for...well, for wildlife?" I didn't want to be offensive - I was being serious and utterly honest. The response was that they are in charge of granting hunting and fishing permits. Hmm...okay. I guess it pays to be friends with a hunter.

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