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Weird deer behavior?

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Weird deer behavior?

Postby uclacody0908 » Wed Jul 16, 2014 2:29 pm

So I have been planning my first solo trip to the sierra for some time now and had to delay a month. Finally got out there on Monday and still trying to process what happened.

My ambitious trip plan had me starting from Hetch Hetchy and heading up to Bearup lake then up to Ardeth, and down to Vernon. Four days three nights, that was the plan.
Just as I am getting ready to start heading towards Bearup along Frog Creek, the threatening clouds start inching closer and drops start falling from the sky. I start to get nervous and fall back on Laurel lake, only I lose the trail and even though I could see the lake had to bushwack for sometime until finally finding the trail again. I get lonely and start missing my wife and daughter. I let them know via the Inreach that I will be cutting the trip short and making this an overnighter only. They are happy and so am I.

I start making camp in an area with an existing fire ring right next to the outlet stream and Laurel lake elevation sign. I notice deer in the area and especially a male, maybe 3 years of age drinking water in the lake, try to snap a pic but it walks away calmly after studying me for a bit. I make dinner, build a fire, and have a couple swigs of vodka. Everything was going great when I notice some rustling of leaves near my tarp. The male deer has returned and is hanging around my tarp. I first thought, ok, maybe its just eating some leaves and will leave soon. As it would wonder off a little, it would come right back and got quite close to me, perhaps 6 to 8 ft. I yelled, banged sticks together and even turned on some music on my phone to see if the loud noise of the guitar would shoo it off, yet nothing. I felt almost as if it was stalking me. It was not leaving. So I did. As I was leaving I did run into some other deer in the area though I did not get a good look at them.

I have been to the sierra before for car camping and have chased black bears away. It was just something about this deer that really frightened me and before I set out on this trip would have never thought in a million years that a deer would scare me, yet here we are.

I know packing up and heading back to the dam at 10 o'clock at night is crazy and dangerous, but my gut was telling me to just head home. It was not all bad though, hiking in low 70's compared to mid 90's was great. And I had never night hiked before which I thought was also kind of cool.
Now I am back home and though somewhat disappointed I did not get to see what I set out to, I am happy to be back with my family safe and sound.

Though I am still trying to figure out that deer situation. Was he just trying to say hi and keep my company and instead of feeling threatened I should have welcomed him? The way I saw it was that this is his home and he has antlers that can pierce my flesh and enough muscle strength to take me to my knees so I am losing that fight, and I am not going to stick around for it. I feel embarrassed and somewhat disappointed in myself, this is not my first backpacking trip. I have encountered much wildlife on my trips, but never this kind of behavior from a deer before, normally they are gone before I can even try to snap a pic.

Anyway, that is my lengthy story, definitely not posting looking for attention as I am so embarrassed I did not even want to post this, but I am really looking for some insight into this deer behavior. At this point I think solo trips are unfortunately off the table for me.



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Re: Weird deer behavior?

Postby maverick » Wed Jul 16, 2014 2:45 pm

My guess is, that it was attracted to your sweat, more precisely the salt in it, something
similar to a Mineral or Salt lick.
No need to feel embarrassed, it is something that made you feel uneasy, and thank
you for having the guts to post it, someone else could go thru a similar incident (or
may have) and they can learn from yours. :thumbsup:
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Re: Weird deer behavior?

Postby hikin_jim » Wed Jul 16, 2014 3:01 pm

That is weird that it didn't scare off though. What the heck???

HJ
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Re: Weird deer behavior?

Postby austex » Wed Jul 16, 2014 3:21 pm

Just like "no dumb questions" "live to tell about it" To err on the side of caution is a-ok! I've backed out of some situations and now b/c of that I can try it again with a different approach; and live another day. THANKS for posting; interesting though. Probably salt, I read all the time about deer licking up fresh "whizz" I guess lacking salt. All those FD meals can be salty!= salty whizz!
Lesson learned. Follow your gut, it worked this time.
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Re: Weird deer behavior?

Postby kpeter » Wed Jul 16, 2014 3:22 pm

Hi UCLAcody,

I have had similar behavior from mountain goats in the Olympics, but not from deer. As Mav suggests, the deer may have been powerfully attracted to salt. I had goats chewing on socks I had hung out to dry and excavating and eating dirt wherever humans had urinated. I have seen deer eating ashes from cooled fire rings trying to extract salt. As for why it did not run away--it obviously has never encountered a human being as a threat. Maybe it thought you were another deer.

By the way, how was the trail going from the dam to Laurel? More than half the length of that trail fell within last summer's burn zone. Did the burn take out the canopy? Had a lot of deadfall been removed?
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Re: Weird deer behavior?

Postby Rockchucker » Wed Jul 16, 2014 3:33 pm

I'm betting there was a mountain lion around and the deer knew the lion would be less likely to attack him with you there.
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Re: Weird deer behavior?

Postby uclacody0908 » Wed Jul 16, 2014 3:54 pm

Wow thats crazy Rockchucker never thought about that.

I understand that I am in a no hunting zone and the deer probably saw me as a non threatening.
I too thought about it wanting to lick the vast amount of sweat I had accumulated from the extremely hot day. That had to have been the hottest trip I have taken yet. I believe I only urinated once before getting to beehive meadows!

Kpeter it seemed as though much of the canopy was missing though this was my first hike up to Laurel so I cannot compare to previous years. There was much devastation from the fire though all trees were cleared from the trail. I do have some pics that I was saving for a proper TR, I can post some if interested.

The salt makes sense now as the deer was not acting aggressive towards me, probably just attracted to my sweat and licking up my urine.

In any event I did learn a bit and have some reflecting to do. Thanks for the words of encouragement everyone, felt less of a man and thought some might poke fun at that. Thanks for not.
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Re: Weird deer behavior?

Postby whrdafamI? » Wed Jul 16, 2014 4:48 pm

We had a herd of deer up at Pinto Lake one year that licked almost everyone's hat. Not just casually but enough to soak them with their saliva. Was the salt they were after. All hats went into Cliff Creek for a much needed rinsing. If the buck had been in rut it might have been dangerous but wrong time of year for that.
Better to have it and not need it than it is to need it and not have it!

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Re: Weird deer behavior?

Postby Vaca Russ » Wed Jul 16, 2014 5:05 pm

maverick wrote:My guess is, that it was attracted to your sweat, more precisely the salt in it, something similar to a Mineral or Salt lick.


It was decades ago. I was alone at Benson Lake. Earlier on in this 80 mile hike I had issues with bears at night. I literally drew a "line in the sand" with my urine and went to bed.

That night I awoke to a strange sound. I turned on my light and looked out toward my "line". Several glowing eyes stared back at me. It was a line of deer licking up my "line".

I even have a picture of it somewhere!

I ran into a guy from Groveland the other day. He said his area is over run with deer. This is probably true up the road where you stayed.

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Re: Weird deer behavior?

Postby maverick » Wed Jul 16, 2014 5:16 pm

VR wrote:

It was decades ago. I was alone at Benson Lake. Earlier on in this 80 mile hike I had
issues with bears at night. I literally drew a "line in the sand" with my urine and went
to bed.

That night I awoke to a strange sound. I turned on my light and looked out toward my
"line". Several glowing eyes stared back at me. It was a line of deer licking up my "line".

I even have a picture of it somewhere!


That would be interesting to see.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

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Re: Weird deer behavior?

Postby uclacody0908 » Wed Jul 16, 2014 5:57 pm

Wow what a story russ! Makes sense on the abundance of deer in the area I saw them quite a bit during the day. Interesting though I haven't heard about this until now.
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Re: Weird deer behavior?

Postby RooPhillip » Wed Jul 16, 2014 6:23 pm

In addition to deer, I have seen marmots swarm to the "line in the sand".

At home, the 'line in the sand" works well to keep the deer out of the yard (and the roses). In the Sierra, not so much. :)
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