from The Homeowner's Guide to Deer Prevention

Dustin Parsons


I collected the cut hair of our youngest into a cup. It was fine and though it clumped into thick braids for a short time, it soon divested itself of companionship and became a nest. My wife spread the baby hair clippings around the garden to keep away the deer, a slip of air heartstringing them along the tree line. 

Other techniques observed: hanging soap cakes with drill press signatures roped about the branches of the orchard trees, the curlings slick and fine in the cuffs of pants. Children potty training in the back yard. A yappy dog, whirligigs, and scarecrows. Lavender, sage, thyme, bottlebrush, carpet bugle, wisteria. Pepper flakes and cayenne.

A small town circumscribed by woods, the center of our village is another large wooded area. It is no surprise the deer venture out. They wander the town cemetery at night, they nuzzle along the fence lines in the twilight. Once, taking out the trash, I found four young adult deer staggered from my front yard to the street as though they were posing for an album cover. They wandered a night apart.  We knew they’d visit—the missing heads of perennials, the light touch of hoof to unmulched garden dirt.

Deer are clumsy when they are slow, as though their throttle were squelched. I watched two adolescents feed on grass outside my office window at a colony, and saw the way they tick and jolt, hooves boosted high in the grass. Then a car passed on the road and only a moment of hesitation before they were gone. What it must feel like to have the speed and leap of a stag. The youth too. First you are frozen in a stare, and then speed is just a blur of limbs.

The Celts called them fairy cattle, and held them as known associates of deities. The antlers have held a crucifix known to help convert Saint Hubertus to Christianity. He is the patron saint of, among other things, hunters.

My aunt tells the story of when she wrecked her car in high school, having fallen asleep at the wheel. She woke to a deer head staring through the windshield, the neck contorted unbelievably toward her and she passed out again until a state trooper woke her in the morning. The pupil of a deer’s eye is a horizontal ellipse, the better to see periphery, their tapetum reflecting light, a mirror. When the eyes looked at her, she had no choice but to see herself. 

On the New York State Highways, an average of 20,000 deer carcasses are collected and disposed of each year. The peak time for this collection is fall and early winter. 1.5 million accidents in the U.S. according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Deterrents for deer on highways: slower speed limits; whistlers one can mount on car; solar-powered subsonic noise makers and strobe-lights.

It is magical to think that a bit of hair would work. The deer have, recently, been eating the tops of the lilies too tall for bunnies. It is time for another haircut for my son. The work has been hard in the garden. The world is an ellipse to deer. An orbit. Your pleasures are not their pleasures. Your scent is dry ice, and all they know is that with which you fill their nose.