Touching the Wild: Living with the Mule Deer of Deadman Gulch
In Illumination in the Flatwoods he unveiled the secret lives of the wild turkey to great critical acclaim. In Touching the Wild he turns his acute sense of wonder and affinity to one of the West’s quintessential “big game” animals: the mule deer, a species in peril due to environmental factors.
Wily, thoughtful creatures, mule deer are not inclined to make foolish friendships with their primary predator—man. But due to the intense curiosity of one small doe, and the resulting introduction to an entire herd, Joe Hutto has been allowed unprecedented access and insight into the minds and behavior of this special animal. Spending every day among the herd, he develops uncanny connections with the deer, learning individual and group dynamics as well, unveiling just how much we have in common with these delicate beings.
Each season brings new joy as fawns are born and heartache as matriarchs pass away, or hunting takes its toll, or a fawn is orphaned. But what overwhelmingly emerges from Touching the Wild is the enormous respect Hutto has for all wild things and the recognition that we have so much to learn from them about their world, ourselves, and the fragile planet we share. Throughout the book are gorgeous full-color photos.
she was without question deathly ill. Leslye and I, without laying out any plan, just naturally began a round-the-clock vigil, checking on Anne every hour or so throughout the daylight hours. Raggedy Anne’s daughter Charm. Raggedy Anne, sick. The following morning at first light we were disturbed to see ravens and magpies feeding on the far ridge above the draw. Thinking the worst, I grabbed my rifle and climbed down through the rocks and tramped a half-mile to the top of the ridge. The birds
had stopped browsing and were attentively watching my progress back across the meadow. For the first time I had suspicions that I might be in a perfect position to begin observing the mule deer under more natural circumstances. Now, perhaps, I could begin observing and, in some sense, living their life—free of the unnatural effects of the house and ranch. For weeks I continued to follow Peep or Rag Tag out in the evenings for a little walkabout, and in a month my company went almost unnoticed.
sun. Again each day we exhaled the breath of apprehension and inhaled the light that projects the almost miraculous sight of two spotted, willful little deer romping through the deep, wet meadow grass with their noticeably weary mother trailing behind. Their unbound enthusiasm is pregnant with the joyful possibilities of life, suggesting that all is not cruel and vicious, and that perhaps this life should not be indicted and at once convicted for all its apparent and unforgivable cruelty. And so,
then two, and by the first week we knew that we had finally seen the last of this sad but adorable and inspiring creature. By some means that we would never know, Shady had at last left our world. It was impossible to be bitter. There was only an emptiness in our physical space, our hearts, and our minds—the space that an extraordinary and unlikely mule deer had so richly occupied for so long. That she had survived for a year and a half was simply beyond explanation. She had never been a burden
eagles, Leslye occasionally goes shrieking out into the yard during the day to scare them from the trees, crying, “Leave my bunnies alone!”—thereby proclaiming to all that we do not operate an eagle-feeding station on the Slingshot. On one occasion, we counted forty cottontail rabbits in the yard silhouetted on the moonlit snow, and we do what little we can to encourage their well-being. However, cottontails are the ultimate prey species, and the pendulum of their population swings widely. Like