A good friend asked me to write about my very good deer friend, Junior and tell his story. Below is a photo of Junior with only one antler. He and his twin brother had been pushing each other around and in the process Junior lost one antler. If you think a dog can give you that sorrowful look, you should have seen Junior when he lost that antler. He was heartbroken.
Junior's story is unique. When we first moved here I was out picking up limbs next to the house and a doe with two little fawn's came up to where I was working. I talked to her and she followed me around all morning and the two fawns who were still in spots played while I worked. Then a couple years later a 6 point buck was standing outside the fence looking at the bird feeder. Suspecting he wanted the bird seed, I put a little in an empty ice cream bucket and went out back. I was amazed when he walked right up to me and ate the seed from the bucket while I held it. We soon realized that this and the other buck with him were the two fawns that had come around before. We didn't want to feed him for fear of domesticating him which would endanger him. But the strange thing was as long as I would talk to him he would stand there and listen to my voice. If anyone else would come around he would simply vanish. Deer have intelligence and Junior over the years has taught me more about his and other deer's behavior than I could ever have hoped to know. When a full grown buck will walk up to within a foot or two from you, look you right in the eyes and let you rub his nose you know there is a special connection there.
We named him Junior and he made our home his refuge. He would always show up during hunting season and considered this his safe sanctuary. He often brought other deer with him. He has returned each year for 12 years now. One year one of his traveling buddies was hanging around, the one we called hat rack because he shed his antlers in our yard. I was outside talking to him and said to HR - where is Junior? It is only a few days until hunting season and I haven't seen him. HR looked me dead in the eyes and turned and walked off. Three days later I observed three deer walking through the woods toward our house. As they got closer I saw that HR was in the lead, Junior was behind him and Jr's twin brother, Eddie, was bringing up the rear. I'll believe what I know and you can believe what you want but Junior then hung around until after hunting season.
Junior would stay around the house where it was safe, follow me around, eat an occasional Fuji apple and let me rub his nose, pick ice balls off his forehead, and when I would tell him hunting season was over he would leave and head for lower terrain. Now he comes by for a visit but he is clearly looking to mate with the doe's. He will visit a couple times a year, and somewhere in the past year or two his twin brother has gone his separate way or worse. We named his twin Eddie and three years ago Eddie showed up alone with no Junior. I was cooking cowboy breakfast and talking to Eddie and ask him where Junior was. I was seriously afraid something had happened to Junior. A couple days later this herd of deer showed up and who was leading them but Junior and Eddie was with him. I don't understand it but I sure do believe it. Those deer have heard Junior said so often that they relate Junior to his name.
Below is a photo of Junior taking a nap. He would hang around and take 3-4 day trips off in pursuit of the doe's. He would come back looking ragged and tired. He would curl up and sleep next to the fence and expect us to keep an eye out for him. We did and we could walk right by him to get fire wood from the shed and he would crack an eye to see who it was; never move, and go right back to sleep.
We have not seen Junior yet this year but we keep faith that he will show up yet. He was a one person deer that chose me as his friend, not the other way around. What an honor and privilege. He would follow me around and I could rub his nose and he would eat a slice of Fuji apple from my hand. We like to take hay rides and I would leave the hay in the wagon and he would help himself. What do you do with hay after using it for a hay ride anyway?
Junior is a very special friend and has been for his almost 14 years now. He is getting older and last year I sat on a stump in the back while he stood a few feet away and I told him when he got older and couldn't chase the doe's any more to come back and I'd see he was well cared for and safe. We could talk about old times, as I wasn't getting any younger either.
Whether he simply liked the sound of my voice, instinctively trusted me, or for some other reason he adopted me as a friend. He would and still does like to be in close proximity to where I am. I don't think things like this occur very often but there is no doubt that Junior and I have established a very special relationship. One that seems to defy the laws of nature. We named his mother Daisy and she did not show up last year for the first time. She would have been either 15-16 years old which is quite old for a deer in the wild. Junior is nearing that age now and we are concerned for him but he has had a very good life. We know that because we have watched him grow up and mature each year from his fawn days. He has some very distinctive markings so we recognize him easily when we see him.
There are many side trips I could take with Junior but this is the essence of his story and I hope you enjoy it. He has been a very faithful friend. It is always anxious moments this time of year while we wait to see if he will come back or not. Whether he does or does not come back we know we have provided him safe sanctuary and he has had a full and good life. He has blessed us with his faithful presence each year. How much better does it get?