This morning was foggy and rainy. The five inches of snow that had fallen overnight turned to slush and began to melt. For those few deer hunters who were out in this weather, the hunting was excellent. They spoke of climbing into their trees before daybreak and listening to coyotes sing.
The head of a four- or five-year-old whitetail buck is significantly larger than the head of a younger deer. The hairs around eyes and muzzle are longer, and one can even find whiskers on its lower jaw — where a chin would be if deer had chins.
The antlers are thicker and have a wider spread, with longer tines. I was struck anew by the strangeness and wonder of the cervid family: This animal sprouts a pair of trees from its head every year, uses them to battle with other males, then sheds them in the middle of the winter and starts growing new ones in the spring!
What about the meat? I asked. Oh, we grind it all up, they told us. Bucks have a strong taste to them during the rut. Prized as they may be for trophies, it’s the does that are really the best eating.
By mid-afternoon the sky had cleared. The snow was so wet, it practically splashed when I stepped in it.
The melting and settling gave the landscape an almost shrink-wrapped appearance, accentuated by the long shadows of a low sun less than two weeks from the Solstice.
With tonight’s return to sub-freezing temperatures, I am hopeful that winter has come to stay for a while. I can hear it howling up on the ridge.