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All About The Deer:
 Story Of The Deer

 Virginian Deer

 Mule-deer

 Fallow Deer

 Black-tail Deer

 Musk Deer

 Pampas Deer

 Deer Of The Philippines

 Mexican Deer

 Barking Deer

Story Of The Deer

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

I never could understand how anyone could derive pleasure from hunting deer for the mere sport of shooting them. They are such gentle, timid creatures, so pleasing to the eye and so easily domesticated that it has always seemed brutal to me to see them shot down in mere wantonness.

To kill them for food, when necessary, is, of course, an entirely different matter. Venison is among the finest flavored meats I have ever eaten. Thanks to increasing wisdom and humanity the game laws of many countries now protect these animals against hunters who slay them out of wantonness or merely for their hides and antlers.

It is these antlers that distinguish the deer family from all others. The cow, antelope, gazelle, sheep and other species have horns, but none has a branching into tines of this horny growth.

In addition to being generally more or less branched, the most characteristic feature of an antler when fully developed is that' its outer surface is rugged and devoid of any covering of skin or horn. In fact, for all practical purposes, an antler may be regarded as a mass of dead bone borne for a certain period by a living animal. Except occasionally, as an individul peculiarity, antlers are shed once every year, and, save in the reindeer, are present only in the male sex.

Antlers of the common red deer have been known to weigh nearly 100 pounds, while those of the Irish deer exceed that figure.

The red deer is the largest of our deer. It bears different names according to the size of its horns, which increase year by year. All the male deer have horns, which they shed every year, and renew again. The process of renewal is most interesting. A skin, filled with arteries, covers the projections on which the horns rest. This skin, called the "velvet," is engaged in continually depositing bone on the footstalks, which rapidly increase in size. As the bud-ding horns increase the velvet increases also, and the course of the arteries is marked on the horn by long furrows, which are never obliterated. When the horn has reached its full growth it can not be at once used, as the velvet is very tender, and would bleed profusely if wounded. The velvet cannot be suddenly removed, as the blood that formed the arteries would rush to the brain and destroy the animal. A ring of bone forms round the root of each horn, leaving passages through which the arteries pass. By degrees, these passages become narrow, and finally close entirely, thus gradually shutting off the blood. The velvet, being deprived of its nourishment, dies and is peeled off by the deer, by rubbing against a tree, leaving the white hard horn beneath.

A fine specimen of the red-deer will stand fully four feet at the shoulder. The hair on the throat forms a long fringe, most developed in the pairing-season. During summer the general color is a bright reddish brown, the head and legs being somewhat grayer, the throat pale gray, and the patch on the buttocks yellowish white. In winter, when the fur becomes longer and softer, the color tends to a brownish gray. Wild stags are occasionally found white.

The red deer is found throughout the temperate regions of Europe and Asia. They are shy and wary and can detect an enemy at a great distance.

In the pairing season bloody and desperate conflicts take place between the stags. The conflict generally continues for a considerable time, and nothing can be more entertaining -than to witness, as I have often done, the varied success and address of the combatants. It is a sort of wild joust, in the presence of the dames who, as of old, bestow their favors on the most valiant. In solitary encounters, there being no hinds to take the alarm, the harts are so occupied and possessed with such fury that they may be occasionally approached in a manner that it would be vain to attempt at any other time. I know of one instance where the antlers of two stags fighting in this manner became so firmly interlocked that the victor was unable to disengage himself from, his dead antagonist, and was thus held captive until killed by a forester.

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