Bob and Katie Winter’s place north of Garfield is peaceful, lakeside, private and lovely.
They are a warm and welcoming couple, so you can’t blame a guy for stopping by to say “Hi” now and then.
Even a four-legged fella.
About a month ago, Bob had a close encounter with a deer, a startlingly rare exchange between man and nature.
Here’s the story:
On May 14, the Winters woke up and saw a big deer right outside their window, standing in the yard.
“We were really concerned because its mouth was all lathered up and his tongue was hanging out. Obviously something had been chasing it – coyotes, dogs, whatever,” Bob said.
“We felt real bad for it. It wandered around for quite a while and finally it lay down right there in the tree line and it stayed there from 8 o’clock in the morning till 7:30 at night.
“Then, it just got up and nibbled a little and wandered down toward the lake. We made a point not to go near it or bother it because it was exhausted. You know, just leave it be. We thought that was the last of it,” Bob recalled.
Then, a couple of days later, the deer reappeared.
“That’s when I thought, something’s strange here because it was in the open. It could see me, I could see it and so on, but it didn’t seem real concerned. So, I started walking toward it and it started walking toward me. That’s when we figured out it wasn’t really wild at all,” Bob said.
They met on the driveway, between the house and shop. Bob stretched out his arm and gave that deer a little scratch on the head.
“It was a pleasurable experience, actually.”
During one of the deer’s most recent visits, about two weeks ago, Bob said the buck already has horns -- stubs about 3 inches tall sprouting from atop his furry head.
“I would say it’s a yearling. It’s been back several times since,” Bob said. “The neighbors aren’t real fond of it because they’re big gardeners and (the deer) eats their garden.
“He seems to really enjoy nibbling on whatever new growth there is, whether it be maples, box-elders, potentillas, apple trees; he nibbles on the new growth.”
One of the Winters’ neighbors, Marilyn, offered fruits and vegetables to the deer.
“He spit the carrots out, but he ate an apple,” Bob said with a smile.
Page 2 of 2 - Neighbors have gotten close to the deer, too, but no one else has been close enough to pet him.
Katie had her own encounter with the deer. “Last week when he was here, I was out close to him. He came over and it was like our cat does, kind of nudges you a little bit, you know. He wanted to be petted a little bit,” Katie added with a laugh.
Deer, songbirds, turkeys ... they’ve had a lot of wildlife in the area of their rural home, but they’ve never experienced anything like this.
Bob, who is a deer hunter, said, “I’m concerned about his well-being because as tame as he is, I can’t believe he’d last through the deer season. He certainly didn’t seem strong (at first); he was rather gaunt and that’s typical of a Minnesota deer after the winter, but he certainly seems healthier now.”
So what’s the deal? Why is the deer seemingly tame?
Maybe the deer was raised by humans and set free.
Maybe it got loose.
You never know, Bob said.
Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Mitch Lawler said he received a call from someone in the area about the “friendly” deer.
“There is a chance this thing was raised by someone as a fawn last year, and maybe it got to be too big and it was placed in the wild and it happened to be in that area,” Lawler said.
“There’s definitely something with this deer and its history that’s keeping it from being wild.”
Lawler advises people to keep their distance.
“It’s a wild animal. I know it seems friendly, but they’re always going to be unpredictable. I would caution people against feeding it or petting it,” he said.