I could go on and on and on about the differences between Colorado living and Indiana living. The landscape, the diversity, the climate, the opportunities…
But I’m going to tell you about the deer.
Indiana has white-tailed deer. Colorado has mule deer. I could go on about differences in their mass and height, but the real difference is in attitude.
White-tailed deer are anxiety ridden things, truly.
If they’re browsing at the side of the road and a car comes by, they panic and bolt. They often bolt in front of the car.
If they’re browsing in a large field and see or hear something disturbing, they panic and bolt. They often bolt toward a road. Where cars are.
And if they’re just moving from one field to another, they leap onto roads. When cars are passing.
If the deer is calmly crossing the road, and a car comes close, the deer will sometimes stand in place, or stutter-step back and forth before bounding off. But—and here’s the crazy part—that deer will often trot out of the car’s path… then change its mind and dash the opposite direction just in time to get hit by the car whose driver thought the deer was (reasonably) going to stay ten feet away.
I lived just outside the edge of town. I saw this a great deal.
Once upon a time, my late husband was driving on 465, the major highway that encircles Indianapolis. He didn’t hit a deer. The deer hit him. Slammed right into the side of the car, buckling the rear door and shattering the window.
White-tailed deer are skittish and unpredictable.
Mule deer, on the other hand, don’t give a fuck.
Mule deer browse on the side of the road. And when I say “side of the road,” I mean they’re right there. Two feet from the pavement. They really don’t care about the traffic. They might look up now and then, but it’s passing curiosity and nothing more.
If they cross the road, they usually do it as a mosey, and they’ll make eye contact as they do it. “Go ahead, hit me,” the even stare says. “Just wait until you see what I can do to your car.”
(I should mention mule deer look a damn sight more solid than white-tailed deer, too.)
And before they cross the road, I swear they look both ways.
I’ve come upon mule deer while driving, and they don’t spook like white-tailed deer do. They just give me The Look, and keep on with their mosey.
My oddest mule deer moment came when I was driving home from Tai Chi, on a well-used road with development on one side and open hills on the other. I rolled up to a stop sign, and glanced both directions before moving forward.
And caught my breath.
Out the passenger window of my little Hyundai sedan, I could just see the chest and chin of a huge mule deer. I had to lean over to see his antlers. He was massive. And he was just standing there, close enough I could have touched his muzzle were I in the passenger seat (and dared to roll down the window), waiting for me to get the hell out of his way. Sure enough, as I rolled forward, he strolled across the road behind me as if he had all the time in the world. And he looked at my tail lights as if thinking, “Yeah, you better move along.”
But the most unsettling mule deer moment came last fall, when I’d run away to a local campground for a couple nights. My little Tanner-pup spotted a collection of mule deer, ran to the end of her lead, and barked like crazy. The mule deer looked up from their browsing and advanced. Even Tanner decided it was best to shut up and back down.
White-tailed deer were annoying and dangerous.
Mule deer… I don’t want to mess with them at all.