Having served as “designated driver”, I was coming back from a party on Saturday night along the narrow, winding road which runs through my parents’ farm. It was clear and cold, and I almost drove straight past a dead roe doe in the verge. I usually stop to inspect deer out of curiosity on this road, and I quickly realised that this animal was so freshly and cleanly killed that much of it could be salvaged for the freezer. There are all kinds of connotations about cooking with roadkill, but leaving this animal for the badgers and the buzzards would have been a shocking waste. I gralloched the carcass and hauled it into the boot of the car (despite protestations from my wife), and was soon on the way home to bed. Two young deer hung around nearby in the headlights, and I assumed that this must have been their mother stretched out on the tarmac.
The next morning, I inspected the carcass and found it badly bruised along one side, but was able to recover several kilos of meat which was duly minced and has formed the basis for the past week’s cooking. What interested me was that she still had a good deal of milk in her udders when she was butchered. I don’t imagine that the youngsters were relying on her milk in any serious sense, but it was intriguing to find that the tie between adult and young was still strong.
I generally dislike meddling with does and their young as the psychological bond is often very strong, even into midwinter. Fortunately I don’t have to reduce roe numbers and my stalking is only for pleasure, but I am similarly squeamish at the end of the doe season when pregnancy is really underway and gralloching becomes a grisly business.
I hope that the two youngsters will be alright after losing their mother on Saturday night. Barring a particularly severe winter, they probably stand a pretty good chance and I hope to be able to keep an eye on them next year.