Tag Archives: Deer

admission essay for graduate school

The House speaker, Paul Ryan, recently lamented how his personal SUV parked back in his Wisconsin hometown had been “eaten by animals.”

He said woodchucks chewed the wiring out from his Chevrolet Suburban. “And so my car was eaten by animals, and it’s just dead,” he said, according to a story in The New York Times.

Well, Mr. Speaker, you ain’t got nothin’ on AMR’s Richard Rodriguez who has his own tales (tails?) of woe involving critters and cars.

Fasten your safety belt and read Rich’s stories: 

Being born in raised in the Bronx, I had little opportunity for encounters with wildlife.

My wife and I moved out to rural Sussex County, N.J., and it was culture shock.

It was pitch black dark at night, and so quiet I couldn’t sleep. I missed being lulled to sleep by Cross Bronx Expressway traffic.

Over the years we have had numerous encounters with animals and our vehicles.

On a snowy evening, I was following my wife driving home when a deer ran out in front of her car and she hit the brakes but she slid and hit it.

The deer slammed down on the hood and bounced off onto the roadway.  I pulled over and checked on the deer and it was alive but surely had broken legs.

I had no idea what to do.

A truck pulled up behind us and a guy got out and said he could take care of this.

I thought he had a knife and would be able to put this poor animal out of its misery.

Then he went back to his truck and came back with a small sledge hammer and to our horror he proceeded to beat the poor animal’s head in.

Unfortunately, the first hit did not do the job and he continued to slam the hammer down until I finally heard the skull give way and the deer was finally done.

I then helped him pick up and throw it to the side of the road.

We were in shock as to what we just participated in, pristine clean white snow now marred with blood and brains.

Welcome to Sussex County.

This was just the beginning of our vehicle encounters with animals.

My wife proceeded to hit a number of deer in the years to follow, including a scary high-speed encounter on the way to work one morning.

The front of the van was smashed but only the top of the radiator cracked and she was able to drive back home.  It was close to being totaled but the insurance company fixed it.

This van became the Red Baron of the road.  I should have placed stamps on the side to represent all of its kills over the years.

I hit a deer with it, or actually the deer ran into me, almost came through the driver’s side window.

I also ran over a poor cat with all the kids in the van as I brought them home from daycare. Nice job, Dad. Now I was known as the cat-killer to my kids.

Last year the car I used for commuting to work started smelling like a small animal nest.

I checked under the hood by the air intake, and inside the car where the air comes through the vents.  Nothing there but some leaves and debris.

Not a good sign.

I hoped a mouse was not using my car as a nest.

The nest smell turned into the smell of death and decay and I was still unable to locate the culprit.

I used car fresheners that I attached to all the vents and it only masked the smell as the underlying stench still came through.

No one wanted to drive in my car with me.

I started to use my truck to avoid dealing with the dead animal smell.

I wondered how long it would take for it to decompose to nothing so it would stop stinking up my vehicle.

Winter came and I think whatever was in there froze and provided some olfactory relief.

I am now happy to report that after almost a year I am able to drive around without death in the air.

Glad I did not have to set the car on fire.

A-Hunting I Will Go…

I am invisible.

You cannot see me.

You cannot smell me.

And, apart from my growling stomach, you cannot hear me.

I am dressed in camouflage, covered in scent-killing spray, perched about 17 feet off the ground in a tree stand near the Delaware State Forest in the Poconos woods of Pennsylvania.

It’s late October and my guide to all things deer hunting is Mike Kuhns, sports editor for the Pocono Record in Stroudsburg, Pa., and a lifelong sportsman.

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I am an urban urchin who grew up in New York City. My outdoors experiences were limited to visits to the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, a few overnight campouts with the Boy Scouts and one memorable camping trip 30 years ago with my About Men Radio crewmates.

I am a mere Padawan to Mike, a Master Jedi of the outdoors.

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On this day, Mike is hunting deer with a compound bow. Me? I am armed with a smartphone and a recorder.

This time of year is the beginning of the “chase” season. It’s the prequel to the full-on, raging-hormone-fueled rut in which male deer will range for miles seeking a one-night stand.

Before we set out, Mike inventories various noise-making devices, including a bundle of sticks in a bag that he rubs between his palms. The noise, which mimics the sound of two bucks banging antlers for territory, is designed to arouse their curiosity and draw them closer.

As Mike outfits me in a camo jacket, he explains that he washes his hunting gear in special fragrant-free detergent. He sprays us, including the bottom of our boots, with a scent-killing spray.

“The key to deer hunting is beating their nose,” he says.

The sounds of our feet kicking through fallen leaves and the sight of our breath, illuminated by our headlamps, are the only things disturbing the predawn stillness of the forest.

We stop and Mike takes out a long cord called a drag rope. At its end are thick strands that he dips into a small bottle of pungent deer estrus.

I drag the rope behind me to mask our scent and leave an inviting, c’mere-big-boy smell for bucks. The aroma of doe pheromone faintly clings to my clothes.

I learn a lot about deer habits from Mike. It’s all very “Wildlife: CSI.”

He points to telltale signs of deer activity that I walked right past: a clearing where bucks scraped away leaves and dirt and urinated to mark their territory or where one rubbed his antlers against a tree, stripping away some of the bark.

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We’re in our perches by 6:22 a.m., a solid hour before sunrise. Although we are above the sight and scent lines of the deer, “it doesn’t mean you can sing and dance up there,” Mike says.

So I try to remain as still as possible. Hunting is not for the fidgety.

I hear the thrum of traffic from nearby Route 402. I also swear that several times I hear the heavy movement of leaves, as if something was approaching, but nothing ever appears in my line of sight.

Mike tells me later that with the way sound travels in the stillness of the woods, a deer or bear a distance away could have been passing through and it would have sounded like it was over my shoulder.

After about three hours of sighting nothing but chipmunks and squirrels, we head back.

But Mike is brimming with enthusiasm about the morning’s outing.

Hunting is not always about the kill, he says. (What he does successfully hunt goes to the butcher. Some he keeps and some he donates to Hunters Sharing the Harvest.)

Hunting is about being out in nature, he says. It’s about the chance to hear owls talking to one another, or seeing a bear or watching a fawn get milk from its mother.

Indeed, the experience is extraordinary.

The stars fade to pinpricks of light as the black sky gives way to a bluish hue and the outlines of the trees become more pronounced.

As I take it all in, I have a deeper appreciation for the grandeur of nature and the wonders of the universe.

Yes, I am invisible as I sit in the tree stand. But watching the changing sky, I am also infinitesimal.

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