Guest Column: John Deer: From foe to friend
By William W. O’Leary
In 1999, a tall yearling buck deer tore off the top third of a fruit-laden pear tree in our orchard. This mischievous adolescent triumphantly pranced off with it into our east forest.
The next year, he developed the ability to reach 10 feet up into pear and apple trees and bring down ripe fruit by the stem without damaging them. We ate his share, but he helped us pick fruit in the following years.
I named him John Deer, and he became our first working deer (2000). He would bang on our barn the day before the first day of each hunting season (probably because some deer hunters start a day early and record their trophies on the following legal day). Other deer benefitted by our opening the barn.
In the summer of 2003, a doe and her fawn were hit on Bypass 20. The doe died at our fence, but John guided the fawn to our pine grove and brought her ripe pears. He stayed with her to protect her. By the spring of 2007, she took on the job of training and supervising a crew of does and fawns to help control “weed trees” in our forests. I named her Johnita.
In 2006, John began training a buck fawn to patrol our east forest and clear trails of fallen limbs. I named him John II. New Year’s Eve 2007, disaster struck. A poacher shot John Deer. John I took over the job of patrolling the trails and clearing them, but he was not yet big enough to be security deer until 2008, when he expanded his patrolling to do both east and west forests plus other work he created on his own.
I was unable to work the forests for six months beginning after spring planting 2009. A blessing happened. The twin fawns of Johnita’s, along with the trained crew of weeding does, weeded Stand One without any supervision. One I called “Jane Doe” demonstrated to me that she could correctly identify five species of planted trees.
At this writing, May 29, 2010, there are no deer tracks in O’Leary Forests. All our deer are missing. I attribute this to overkill hunting. Deer hunting season was tripled, and the limit was doubled. Sharpshooters and licensed hunters killed 700 in Winnebago County alone. I estimate that poachers have killed an additional 800 to 900 more in that county. Poachers can kill more animals because they hunt day and night, all year round. After questioning people in northern and central Illinois, only one person reported seeing deer since spring of 2010.
If you have any orphaned fawns over one month old, we’ll take them, train them, and feed them more fruit than several dozen could eat.
I have three requests to save a species from extinction:
1. Put a moratorium on deer hunting for at least two years.
2. Prosecute poachers.
3. Contact me at: Onanol@aol.com or by mail: William W. O’Leary, 4308 20th St., Rockford, IL 61109.
William W. O’Leary is a resident of Rockford.
From the June 9-15, 2010 issue
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