A Novemberish day. Gray sky, gray woods, and the kind of chill that makes you fall in love with your woodstove. I'm perfectly aware that this exact temperature will, in early April, feel downright summery, and I will spend the evening patrolling the backyard for signs of dandelions (to eat, not kill), glad to finally get a break from that tiresome old woodstove.
Gray sky, gray woods and, at the very edge of the field, clothed in gray and tan, a buck. In the eight years since we moved to Vermont, of the dozens of deer that have grazed our fields and dropped mountains of dog treats on the ground, not a single one has been an antlered buck.
This one is a beauty of sorts. He doesn't have the Audrey Hepburnish litheness of the does, but is as fat and stocky and glossy as a Jersey cow, with a neck the size of my torso (well, almost), and a lovely but seemingly impractical crown of horns with three spikes on each side.
I waited for him to go back into the woods before I took the dogs out, and while I was throwing balls for them, gun shots exploded from the direction in which the buck had disappeared. Hunting season doesn't start until next weekend, so I hope that what I heard was target practice.
But sooner or later, somebody will get my buck. The fact that he was the first one in eight years to venture out into our field doesn't speak well for his camouflage I.Q., and perhaps it won't be a tragedy if he doesn't live to pass that trait on to next spring's crop of fawns.
Whoever kills him, though, had better eat him. If you kill it, you should eat it. And in my book, getting your meat through hunting (if you're a good hunter, that is, and hit your mark) is far superior on humanitarian grounds than buying steaks from feedlot-raised cows.
Before somebody shoots him, my buck will have had a fine life, growing up next to his mother, finding good things to eat in the woods, going down to the trout stream to drink at dusk. And the hunter will have high-quality meat, free of antibiotics and other horrors.
Next weekend our village will hold the annual game dinner. The fire hall will be redolent with the smell of cooking meat: bear, moose, deer, and who knows what else. We usually attend these dinners, to show community spirit, and my husband eats some of everything. I, on the other hand, despite all my convictions, confine myself to pie.