Oh, Deer: Battling Backyard Bucks to Save the Bulbs

Under attack: A local homeowner declares war on the insidious “eating machines”

The odor wafting from the spray bottle makes my eyes tear and my nose recoil. Holy stink-a-roo! I wouldn’t spray this on my worst enemy.

And that makes the little bottle the perfect weapon — because the tall, graceful eating machines that treat my yard like a smorgasbord are my worst enemy.

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“They are so innocent-looking!” my well-meaning, city-dwelling friend says when I complain. Innocent-looking my petunias (which, by the way, are just one of the victims of the herd). Tulips, azaleas, black-eyed Susans, daylilies, you name it. If it’s in my garden (and probably yours), they devour it.

“For Pete’s sake,” my friend says. “If you insist on living in the wilderness, plant what they don’t eat.”

“That would be cactus,” I snort. “They don’t seem to eat cactus.”

I apologize (sort of) to those who think we should be one with nature. Hogwash. Not when you can set your watch by the daily parade to the all-you-can-eat buffet in your backyard. Twice a day they saunter down the driveway, along the front walk, between the hedges, through what’s left of my flower gardens and into the nearby fruit orchard.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that your flowers and plants are safe if you place them just outside the doors and windows of your house. My husband found out last fall that the enemy knows no boundaries.

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He was in the TV room on the ground floor when somebody started bumping against the window. He jumped up and realized that the house “weapon” (an old piece of wood) was up under the bed. (I’ve often thought we should upgrade our security, as the “weapon” might not be too effective when the bad guys show up and we have to scramble around on the floor looking for it as we yell at each other. But I digress.)

My husband peeked out the window. The doe-eyed “bad guys” peeked right back, refusing to let a house get in the way of a snack, otherwise known as our arborvitae shrubs. “Shoo!” he shouted, which — now that I think about it — may turn out to be more effective than a piece of wood: The enemy practically jumped through our window. But even this close encounter wasn’t the final straw.

That occurred a few months later, after we’d wrapped holiday lights on trees, porches, shrubs and anything else left standing in the yard. Call us the “Clark Griswold” of northern Dutchess County.

My husband was outside checking his elaborate electrical connections when he saw that several large, red bulbs had been plucked off a shrub and were splattered all over the ground. We scratched our heads. Could they be the culprits? The bulbs were at the right height and kind of looked like big berries or apples.

We put in more red bulbs, and the same thing happened. Then we put in white bulbs, which went untouched.

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Our conclusion: The %#*# enemy tried to eat our Christmas display!

That’s why I’ve given up on milder tactics, and stand ready with a smelly bottle for an all-out summertime war with an enemy that — you may have noticed — I refuse to call by name.

That name is, after all, a four-letter word.

Illustration by Chris Reed

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