I found myself on the front porch speaking quite firmly to a young buck this morning.
I watched him work his way grazing down the hill in the cow pasture, then he paused and easily jumped the fence. I assumed this 6-to-8 point young buck was headed to quench his thirst in the creek at the bottom of our property. I was wrong.
The deer-hunter hubby had noticed last week and warned me that he’d seen new deer rubs on our Staghorn sumac and newly planted pond cypress, nearing many of our new conifers. A tree rub is a result of a buck rubbing his antlers on them and marking them up — buck rubs are pretty noticeable because the peeled bark is easy to spot.
I really wasn’t concerned too much about our stand of three native staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina, not the poisonous sumac variety), as they get annual deer rubs and grow back every spring. I had planned to make sumac-ade or “Rhus-juice” from the edible tart, citrusy red fuzzy staghorn sumac berry clusters.
But the previous day I had walked down the hill and noticed some young buck had totally decimated two of the three bright, red-orange-leafed sumacs. I had nubs left.
“Early-season rubs typically aren’t as aggressive, destructive and common as those made weeks later when the bucks’ testosterone levels start peaking as the breeding season, or rut, nears. For most of the country, the rut occurs from late October to early December. Before and during the rut, bucks rub trees to mark their territory, work off aggression, and intimidate other bucks. A series of rubs made along a trail or field edge are called rub lines, and provide clues about a buck’s travel patterns.
Buck rubs also serve as dominance symbols and communication signposts. They notify other deer of the buck’s presence and possibly its breeding intentions. When a buck rubs trees, brush and saplings, it leaves behind scents from its forehead. Other deer often sniff rubs, and sometimes rub the spot themselves before moving on. Even does sometimes rub their foreheads on a prominent rub to signal their presence.”
The hubby and I set out to protect many of our new young trees by surrounding them with wire cages and a trick we learned recently from gardeners in Michigan — lay bamboo stakes or long branches through the conifer limbs so the deer will avoid your favorite tree to avoid poking his eye or head.
When I saw Lil’ Youngbuck stopping at a few of our 6-foot conifers, but avoiding the 8-foot bamboo stakes sticking out horizontally at deer-height, the hefty guy walked away. But he then immediately sauntered over to the none-nubbed sumac and began moving the wire cage out of the way with his antlers.
Nope, not on my watch.
That’s when I went into Mom mode.
With my jammies on, I walked out my door onto my front porch and calmly, yet firmly and loud enough so he could hear me, yelled, “Shoo lil’ Bucky — do not rub on that tree!”
From about 50 yards away, he looked up at me and just stared.
“Young Buck,” I repeated since we had just stared at one another for an entire minute, “move on — I will come down there if I have to.”
The wire was stuck on his antlers like a crown and we stared at each other for another minute — he looking like a wired conehead and me in my morning messy bun and sleep t-shirt with flannel pants.
“Seriously?” I bellowed at his obstinance as he, with one head-shake rid himself of the wire, looked up at the weird-looking woman on my porch and sauntered off toward the creek.
Lucky for him, the husband went hunting and got a buck last week.