“Look, out in the driveway,” my wife shouted.
I was upstairs at the time, getting dressed for the day. I ran out into the hall and over to a window and looked down. There was a deer in our driveway, and another further down below toward the street. They were just standing there, all peaceful like.
I had never before seen a deer in our driveway. I ran into our bedroom and grabbed my iphone from the night table and began taking pictures of them through the screening of the window. There’s an artificial “click” sound that the photo mode makes so you think it’s like an old fashioned camera, and I was afraid it would spook the deer. But the deer didn’t budge.
Would the camera take a good picture through the screen? We would soon know. Then I thought I saw some of the bushes move in the property next door. It was more deer—another three or four of them. This was a whole pack of deer. Amazing.
Deer are a rare thing to see in the Hamptons. I’ve heard from time to time a few people see deer and then complain about them. They say the deer eat all their shrubbery and plantings and flowers. I don’t have much sympathy for these people.
Sometimes I write about these complainers in Dan’s Papers.
“Hey buster, deer are God’s creatures too. And you should feel special that you’ve gotten to see one. Stop complaining.”
If you see a deer, take a picture of it. You could probably sell it for $15 on eBay if they know it’s from the Hamptons. You should probably also call our local environmental officer about the sighting. Scientists are very interested in knowing about these occasional sightings.
Anyway, the two deer in our driveway just stood there, staring blankly down at the road that crosses in front of our house. Across the street is Three Mile Harbor. They wouldn’t get very far trying to swim through that. It’s partially iced over this time of year. They’d freeze to death. Or the ice floes would stab them to death. Well they just stood there.
After awhile, much to my surprise, the four other deer next door trotted through the lilac bushes that separate us from the yard next door and stopped by the other two. Imagine that! Not two deer in our yard! Six!
The deer apparently have an instinct to stay close in a sort of herd. They seem to like to assemble in a central place to mill around, then a few wander off, then look back, and then the others either follow these deer over there, or the deer over there get nervous and wander back. Here at this particular time, halfway up our driveway was deer herd central. One of the six must be the boss deer. He wasn’t moving.
As near as I could see, the activity on this cold morning was to find something leafy to eat. One of them trotted over to our lilac bushes and gave them a sniff. There’s no foliage whatsoever on the lilac bushes this time of year. Another trotted over to the rose bushes, but there’s no foliage on our rose bushes either. This was not a morning they were going to get something to eat, at least not at our house. Ha, ha. Come back next summer, boys.
The deer are really just so cute. They have big brown eyes with long silky eyelashes, they have big happy ears that stick out, they have twitchy noses with whiskers that quiver out the sides, and they have bushy little tails that they wag when they are happy or excited about something. They weren’t wagging about anything this morning.
I stood very quiet there at the top of the stairs. I knew my wife was standing very quiet in the TV room at the bottom of the stairs. Last thing we wanted to do is scare them away.
One of the deer walked tentatively down the driveway toward the street and I thought, well this is going to be interesting. We have a six-foot high wood stockade fence bordering our property and running parallel to the road, and we have a few forsythia bushes down in front of it, which are also bereft of anything to eat this time of year. Across the street, of course, is the harbor. Sometimes drivers pull over to watch the sun set over the harbor. But they don’t do this in the morning. In the morning, the sun rises over the woods at the top of the hill behind our house. That’s where these six deer must have come out of, I thought. Damn!
As that single deer got down to where our driveway meets the street, don’t you know, he turns left and disappears in that short strip of ground between the fence and the road. This activity has not passed unnoticed by the other five deer. They look down there at where he had been a moment ago out of the corner of their eyes. Then, some invisible signal passes among them, and all five of these deer trot down to see what this first fellow has found. And then they too are gone around the other side of the fence.
At this moment, four cars come up Three Mile Harbor Road. I can see them from my second floor window and I can hear them approach. There’s a determined old lady hunched over the wheel of a Honda driving real slow. The others are pushing her along. I figure—the deer are going to have to hug the fence until these cars go by.
Suddenly, the deer, all six of them, run back from around our fence all agitated and bound back up our driveway. They are not happy these six. The cars had attacked. They just barely escaped.
The six deer now stop just outside our front door right below my window. They look around. They don’t see me up here. Are they going to ring the bell? They don’t ring the bell. And then three of them push through the break in the bushes to the yard next door, and the other three follow and now I see them trotting all close together in a tight herd heading to the back of that yard and up into the woods and out of sight.
For them, this had been a cautionary tale. For me, it had been an education in deer behavior. What do they think they are doing, running together all in a herd like that? Well, they know they are prey and predators can attack them, bring them down and eat them. Do they figure that if there’re six of them, the predators will not do that? Not likely. There’s just six times as much to eat. Those poor deer.
I didn’t see the deer for the rest of the day and of course—as I said this is a rare thing—not ever since. I guess they learned their lesson, these six, and now will stay hidden in the woods. Or maybe they have learned their lesson, but that’s just today and tomorrow, having forgotten today, they will just do it again. Such small brains they have in their pretty little heads.
As for you, dear reader, I can tell you this. If a deer approaches, stand perfectly still. Their eyes are on the sides of their head so it’s hard for them to see you straight away. Just don’t move. After awhile, either this deer will trot away, or five others will show up and approach you.
A friend told me about this. In the wintertime, they are hungry. If the six deer approach you, whatever you do, don’t feed them. If you feed them once, they will go away full, but then they will come back later and try to get you to feed them again and if you don’t they will bite you.
And here’s some detailed advice about what to do when standing still. Try very slowly to reach into a pocket and pull out a cellphone to get a photo of this rare occurrence. Before you shoot, change the setting from “click” to “vibrate.” Then shoot. After that, clap your hands so the deer run away. And now you have this rare picture of a happy deer you can sell on eBay for $15, shot in the Hamptons. Then call the environmental officer, note the time and tell him or her your location and which way the deer went.