Missoula’s Urban Deer


I tell you, if I were a hunter, I would be salivating right now. Well, I AM salivating, but that’s only because I can smell the chorizo I’m frying up for breakfast.

The sight of a small herd of urban deer just outside of my back fence would no doubt fire up my bloodlust, and get my trigger finger all twitchy. (I can tell they’re urban deer because they’re carrying brief cases and wearing fedoras.) There are probably 20 of the mangy bastards, moseying along, nibbling what meager plant life can be found under the snow, working their way back up into the foothills before the neighborhood dogs and kids wake up and run outside to harass them.

I’ve lived in Montana for twenty years, and I still never get tired of seeing these graceful, jittery beasts with their big black noses and eyes like Prince. We live on a hillside overlooking the valley, and we see more deer than we do dogs, cats, pigeons, squirrels, or any other neighborhood-style critter. Our situation is not unique, of course. I have a couple of friends living west of town who’ve reported waking up  to find a herd of 50 or more deer bedded down in their yard. The morning after hunting season ended.

Her name was Fawn Leibowitz. And she was from Fort Wayne, Indiana.

The deer were here first, of course, and as home construction continues unabated, creeping inexorably up the hills surrounding the valley, people are encroaching further into their natural habitat. Evidently, no one sent the deer population a memo about this, because they choose to tolerate the incursion rather than move to, say, Phoenix. Well, at least until they hit retirement age.

You can drive right up next to a roadside deer in your vehicle, and she will remain nonchalant, chewing some roots and flipping her satellite dish-sized ears back and forth. But the moment you roll down your window and say “howdy,” it’s pants-shitting time. Eyes bugging, she’ll swallow her cud and hurl her anvil-shaped head uphill, causing her scrawny body to follow. With a bark that sounds like an 80-year-old lung cancer victim choking on his hot pepper cheeseburger at the Mo Club, she’ll wave that big white tail in the air, sending a signal to her fellow deer: “High-tail it, girls! There’s a hunter inside that giant silver rock!”

Deer, of course, assume that all humans are hunters. They’ve been burned before. This docile, trusting creature has handed down from generation to generation an intrinsic fear of anything walking on two legs. Or four legs. Or any number of legs, really. They’re just a very chicken shit animal, to be honest.

Too many times in the history of deer/man encounters, the hapless ungulate has been betrayed. Some poor buck, minding his own business, thinking about a hot doe he’d played hide-the-venison with the night before, would see a guy walking through the woods. “Hey, ‘sup?” the buck would say, giving a nod to the camo-wearing guy, who smelled strongly of beef jerky and Schmidt beer. Instead of returning the greeting, the guy would level a bolt-action rifle at the buck, and before the buck could say, “Now what the devil…” a 300-grain bullet would pierce his heart, causing instantaneous death from lead poisoning.

Well, it only took a few million of these kinds of incidents for the deer to wise up, and realize that they need to steer clear of the two-leggers. Trouble is, the two-leggers keep showing up in their back yard.

So, within the city limits, we live with the deer under a shaky truce. I say shaky because, while they shun my property during the day, they have no compunction about bedding down near the house at night. When I go out for the paper in the morning, the yard is riddled with dinner-plate-sized groupings of deer poop. I tell you, if this shit was good for the grass, I’d be living on the seventh green at Spyglass Hill.

I’ve always been fascinated with deer poop. Each deposit consists of perfectly rounded, glossy little pellets. Uniform in shape and size, it makes me marvel at this creature’s intestinal discipline and sphincter control.

I capitalized on the uniform shape and consistent consistency of deer poop a few Easters ago, during our annual egg hunt here at the Wire compound. A dozen or so kids came over to search for the brightly colored plastic eggs, most of which held a couple pieces of candy. (I ran out of candy before I ran out of plastic eggs, so some of them contained a handful of pea gravel. Hey, it’s a tough world, kid. Sometimes you get gravel.)

When the egg hunt got underway, I chaperoned a couple of shy third-graders, encouraging them to keep searching—you never know where you’ll find another egg! We came across a large pile of deer pellets, and these two little boys giggled and pointed (“It’s poop!”), until I scooped up a small handful of the pellets (“EEYEWW!”), rattled them in my hand like dice (“OOOOHHH!”) deeply inhaled their aroma (“GROOOOSS!”), and popped them into my mouth (“AAAAAGGHHH!!!”). I chewed thoughtfully as the little dudes screamed in horror, running away, crying, looking for their mommies. What they didn’t know is that earlier, while hiding the eggs, I’d poured three bags of Sugar Babies on the grass to facilitate my dastardly prank.

That egg hunt ended on the spot, and this year Barb is talking about continuing our traditional egg hunt at Bonner Park, or some other site that will be out of my reach. No matter. I’m sure wherever they decided to do it, there will be deer. And “Sugar Babies.”


   Check out all of Bob Wire’s posts in his blog archive.


Bob Wire is medicated and ready to rock.

Think of it as Gonzo meets Hee Haw: Missoula honky tonker Bob Wire holds forth on a unique life filled with music, parenthood, drinking, sports, working, marriage, drinking, and just navigating the twisted wreckage of American culture. Plus occasional grooming tips. Like the best humor, it’s not for everyone. Sometimes silly, sometimes surreal, sometimes savage, Bob Wire demands that you possess a good sense of humor and an open mind.

Bob Wire has written more than 500 humor columns for a regional website over the last five years, and his writing has appeared in the Missoulian, the Missoula Independent, Montana Magazine, and his own Bob Wire Has a Point Blog. He is a prolific songwriter, and has recorded three CDs of original material with his Montana band, the Magnificent Bastards. His previous band, the Fencemenders, was a popular fixture at area clubs. They were voted Best Local Band twice by the Missoula Independent readers poll. Bob was voted the Trail 103.3/Missoulian Entertainer of the Year in 2007.

You can hear his music on his website, or download it at iTunes, Amazon, and other online music providers. Follow @Bob_Wire on Twitter.