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Don't Feed the Deer

Out 'N The Woods Again


February 8, 2018

When I lived in the Swan and before I hauled my ponies and mule over to winter on the bench out of Fairfield to my great friend old Mormon Sam, I needed considerable hay. Elden Rammell once introduced me to an old timer on the Helmville cutoff named Otto Eder. Otto was like many that age (in his eighties). We had to go in and sit a spell. And he insisted we taste his homemade wine. I wasn’t much of a wine drinker but to be sociable I took a small glass. Don’t know what it was made of but it was real tasty stuff.

Anyway, if memory serves me right, on his wall was a couple of 8 by 8 mounted bulls. He got one and his wife got the other one. Impressive!

From small talk the visit got around to tough winters. Old Otto lived there since he was five. Sez he, “I remember one winter it was bad. They ran out of hay and the horses were eating each other’s tails. Eating the bark off the trees there on the hillside. One old pony reached up and got his head caught in a form in the tree. That’s where they found him come spring. That is, what was left after the coyotes, ravens and magpies were finished.”

Otto fed his cows and deer down near the haystack. Fed the deer? Yes, he said the Fish and Game said alfalfa was not good for the deer. He told them they looked perty good to me.

Anyhow, when anyone is starving, whether it be man or beast, you can fight them or figure out a way to get them by. If’n I had deer or elk problems, I’d take a round bale off away from the hay stack and spread it out a little and let’em have at it. But that’s just me.

Wildlife has given me much over my lifetime. So when the deer move in at dusk down at the corral and the horses and mules look the other way…so do I.

And before I forget, Otto’s wife picked up a real pile of horns off that area driving around on her three wheeler come spring.

I was about to toss this ink instrument from this column when I remembered Ol’ Ben Widrick. Trapper and Guide. When I was a lad and old shep was a pup, I think Ol’ Ben got to think’n about the blood thirsty days of his youth. He would mix up buckets of some kind of mash that would keep the deer’s boiler room work’n because of all the rough stuff they was forced to eat. Then he’d walk the river ice and put out little piles here and there. Without that mash on those harsh winters, their carcasses would be everywhere. I myself saw deer so weak you could snowshoe right by them and they wouldn’t even get up.

So anyway, I sure miss those old timers whether they fed the deer or not.


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