Ollie and the White-Tailed Deer

It was bright and cold yesterday afternoon, with snow forecast for later. So I took Ollie out a little earlier, hoping to avoid any bad weather. Deciding on a longer walk, I headed off to the woods around the Village Hall. I know there will be squirrels there, lots of them, so Ollie will be able to chase them to his heart’s content. Sure enough, the place was full of the greys, and they nonchalantly scampered up trees just before my excited dog got too close.

Out on the playing fields by the hall, he got to run around with a young black Labrador for a while, and I was pleased to see his enthusiasm for play, albeit briefly. But he was soon heading back for the woodland, and the prospect of more fluffy-tailed squirrels to chase. They were there again, probably the same ones. After more of the same fruitless chasing, he was getting hot and bothered. As there is no water near that area, I decided to return to Beetley Meadows, and let him cool off in the river. I took the short cut through the wooded path leading from Green Lane.

Halfway down, I spotted a large deer moving around in the bushes, surprisingly close to the main path. It was well-camouflaged, but I heard it rustling in the bracken, and soon spotted it. Ollie came trotting along, and I noticed that he seemed to have no idea the deer was there. No doubt the animal had cleverly positioned itself not to give off a scent, as Ollie can usually smell them a long way off. But as Ollie drew level with me, the deer unwisely flicked its hairy white tail, and that was it.

Having spotted the bright white movement in the green and brown undergrowth, Ollie was off like a bullet. No amount of calling or whistling from me was about to make him give up the chase. The deer was remarkably nonchalant. Bouncing away, apparently unconcerned, it shot me a farewell glance, and carried on in the direction of the fenced-off private land less than 100 feet away. It cleared the fence as if it wasn’t even there, leaving Ollie to apply the canine equivalent of an emergency stop, in case he went straight into the stout woodwork. Having lost sight of his quarry, he started to trot up and down the length of the fence, sniffing intently. It took some time for him to give up.

The sudden appearance of the familiar Golden Retriever, Buddy, gave him something else to think about. I took him down to the river, where he walked in to cool off, and enjoy a long drink.

I was left wondering why nature gave Fallow Deer that white tail. Without it, they would be almost undetectable.

65 thoughts on “Ollie and the White-Tailed Deer

  1. Sounds like a good time was had by all πŸ™‚
    I just love the way the deer around here have the measure of the dogs, I don’t think I have ever seen one break out into a gallop, just a bit of a bounce and they are gone.

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  2. I can just picture the emergency stop! I love seeing deer leap over fences as though they weren’t there. They do it so effortlessly. As for the squirrels, it always amazes me how dogs continue to let hope override experience. I’m assuming Ollie has never actually caught a squirrel?

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      1. He obviously still lives in hope. Thanks for Teddington information. My friend and I met in Pakistan almost 30 yars ago. She kept me calm while I was pregnant and my husband was being held hostage in Afghanistan. We’ve stayed in touch but never met up since those days.

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  3. If you Google “8 Ways Whitetails Communicate with Their Tails, and What Each Means for Hunters,” you’ll get a breakdown from a hunter’s perspective of various tail signals. And since Ollie is a deer hunter (but not featured in a Michael Cimino film) who enjoys the Outdoor Life, the list of tail signals might be of interest to you (and Ollie).

    Here in the Desert Southwest, we have mule deer. The long-eared deer are known for stotting (“springing into the air, lifting all four feet off the ground simultaneously”). It’s exciting to see an entire herd of mule deer spring into action…

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        1. I didn’t have a dog from 1976-2012. I do love having Ollie, but I have been made acutely aware how restricting it can be. So many places where no dogs are allowed, and turning down a lot of social opportunities and holiday offers, because we had nobody to look after him.

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          1. Yes … that’s the downside for sure. My parents-in-law are in constant discussion as to whether or not to get another as they love their holidays, but equally, they do recognise that having a dog to love and going for a walk every day would really benefit them too.

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  4. Interesting – there are actually quite a lot of theories about this from sexual selection to predator spotting, to predator confusion. One theory centres around the predator animal focusing on the white area too closely. when the deer turns the whte spot disappears for the animal in pursuit

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