Saturday, November 08, 2008

Dance with Deer

Today marks the 2008 Minnesota Firearm Deer Hunting Season opener. I donned my orange jacket and hat as well as Topaz's blaze orange for our morning run.

On the way to the Blue Hill Trail of the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge there were many many vehicles parked at the trail heads and along the county roads. Each year I am amazed at how many hunters converge upon the Wildlife Refuge and hunt within such close proximity to one another. I can see orange speckled all throughout the woods and open areas. It's crazy.

The Blue Hill Trail is closed to hunters but they are allowed to hunt outside the perimeter of the trail area. I heard many gunshots, but none that were too close. Everyone was following the rules. Thankfully. Some years the gun shots sound so close to me that it is quite frightening.

Topaz enjoyed herding all of the deer that flocked into the 'safe zone' today. At one point he went bounding through the field as he spotted a group of 8. He began to circle them, giving them his Border Collie 'eye', trying to intimidate the deer. Sure enough, he was able to gather all 8 of them into his circle. I am just spellbound as I watch him do his work. It is almost as if he is using a prey instinct, as would a wild animal, but he (thankfully) doesn't follow through with the kill.

He circles around them, eyeing them, completely focused, crouched to the ground; amazingly enough, the deer respond. They bunch together, allowing him to move them toward me. It's pure instinct. I haven't taught Topaz how to herd. He doesn't know that deer are not stock animals, which he was bred to herd.

The deer don't realize that they aren't stock animals. They allow Topaz to herd them.

(I often wonder why Border Collies aren't used as hunting dogs. I know that if Steve and the boys brought Topaz along today to hunt with them, Topaz wouldn't understand what was being asked of him. He would be out in the middle of the thick woods, confused, and scared of the loud gun shots. However, if I were to take him hunting along the permiter of the trail which I run, where he is totally comfortable, he would herd the deer as he always does. I suppose I would run the risk of accidently shooting at Topaz instead of the deer. I don't imagine the other hunters would think that Topaz was acceptable as a hunter/herder, and, it may even be against the law; still, I wonder why Border Collies aren't used to hunt.)

As he moves the deer toward me in a frenzy of fast pacing, back and forth, eye on the deer and me, circling around and around, he gets to close for my comfort, this is when I always stop the herding dance. I click my tongue. Topaz stands tall, looks at me and trots back to my side. Deer forgotten. They bound off and in an instant are back into the woods.

Watching Topaz work the deer is amazing. He usually rounds them up in the winter, in their laying places as they are hunkered down in the snow. Today he took advantage of them during hunting season as they were in their 'safe zone'.

As the guys are out hunting today I am doing some Christmas baking and shopping, a hair appoinmtent, some running and lifting. With Javelina Jundred only a week out, I'm not running mega miles. 10 today and 10 tomorrow will suffice.

Sunday I'm going to see Wicked at the Orpheum Theatre. I've heard it's fabulous. I'll head out after Topaz gets his hunt on.


Anonymous said...

That would be really cool to watch Topaz do the job he was bred to do!! What a neat experience!


Carl Gammon said...

Very neat story. I would have loved to see it.

keith said...

that is cool that the dog just knows how to do that. my dad's old collie used to herd my was always funny to watch.

i guess in MN it is not legal to hunt deer with dogs. in some southern states it is, though. in fact, in MN property owners can shoot 'nuisance' dogs that chase deer on their property, and the owner can be fined up to $500 for letting their dogs run. if you ask me, this is kind of a gray area (and what kind of S.B. shoots a dog?).

Kimberly Rae said...

Wicked is TOTALLY and COMPLETELY and UTTERLY fab! I give it all thumbs, fingers and toes up...