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The Deer Hunter

One Woman’s Horror (and Hypocrisy)



If someone you knew and liked asked to hunt deer with a cross bow on your property, what would you do?

It’s been happening for years. Various service and delivery people come to our home, notice the abundance of deer, and ask if we’d be interested in allowing them to hunt on our property. I offer a tight smile and a firm “no.” 

One day, my husband, Bill, was the only one at home when Richard, our oil deliveryman, showed up. He’s a great guy, with whom we have a cordial, bantering relationship. Turns out, he is also an avid deer hunter. That day he made Bill an offer he couldn’t refuse: ten cents off per gallon of oil if we let him hunt on our property during the February hunting season. 

Later Bill proudly told me about the deal he’d negotiated. “We saved eighty-seven dollars. Isn’t that great?”

Umm—no not great. Disturbing. Weird. Unacceptable! Didn’t he understand that I didn’t want someone creeping around our backyard in the wee hours of the morning, picking off deer with a gun? 

“That’s the best part!” enthused my husband. “He doesn’t use a gun. It’s not permitted in residential areas. He uses a crossbow.” 

A crossbow! Had my husband lost his mind? Did he really want a reenactment of The Hunger Games happening in our back yard?

“We’re not doing this,” I declared. Even I could hear how shrill I sounded, but I didn’t care. “Just tell him that we’ve changed our minds and we’ll pay back the money. No harm, no foul!” At that moment, Richard’s 4x4 Ford truck pulled into our driveway. We were both struck dumb as he exited the vehicle and stealthily crept into our backyard. “What’s he doing?” I hissed, alarmed that things were moving so quickly. “This wasn’t supposed to happen until February?” 

“He’s putting up cameras.”

“Cameras—what for?”

“To monitor the herd’s daily routines.”

“Isn’t that cheating? Like dropping explosives into a lake to get a big haul of fish?” 

“Well, he’s only going to shoot one,” Bill whispered defensively.

“But they’re a family! I see them every day! I’ve watched the babies grow up. Do you have any idea how guilty I’m going to feel?” 

“Honey, there are at least ten deer out there. He’s only going to take one. He keeps some of the venison for himself and the rest is donated to help feed the needy.”

“Really? And what do they feed them—Mama deer burgers, Bambi stroganoff?” My eyes filled with tears.

Bill was clearly exasperated. “I don’t know why you’re being so unreasonable. You hate the deer!” 

Let me backtrack a bit. It’s true. I have a love-hate relationship with these pretty Disneyesque creatures. The deer path runs right through our property so I see the whole gang on a daily basis as they hoof it across our yard. I enjoy watching them congregate beneath our fruit trees to gorge on fermented fruit and get drunk. I have gasped in admiration while glimpsing the herd prancing through newly fallen snow. And who doesn’t love seeing an adorable baby fawn scamper after its sloe-eyed mother?

But the deer are also a pain in the ass. They are notorious garden destroyers and very brazen. I once opened the front door to retrieve The New York Times and came face to face with a pair of very large antlers attached to an enormous buck who was still casually chewing—having eaten every bud and leaf off my prized ornamental hibiscus.

And perhaps the worst transgression of the deer is that they are carriers of ticks that have the Lyme disease pathogen. Bill and I have both contracted Lyme, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. But did we have to kill the deer? Weren’t they victims of the ticks too?

Richard must have caught wind of my unhappiness about him hunting on our property because he dropped off a peace offering: a package of frozen venison and the promise of the recipe for a “great marinade.” Eww.

I realized that I was being totally hypocritical. Where did I think meat actually came from? I knew perfectly well that it was harvested from animals. Purchasing meat at the supermarket wrapped neatly in plastic didn’t make me any less culpable. But still—cameras, a crossbow? It’s a family of animals that had grown up before my eyes, in my own backyard.

For a month, our deer hunter showed up every day at dawn, and again at dusk. Every time he cut the engine and his black truck rolled slowly into our driveway, my stomach roiled with anxiety and my conscience pricked with guilt for not putting a stop to this. But I needn’t have worried. The deer were smarter than the cameras, the crossbow, and the hunter. Richard never got even one.

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