Animals are creatures of habit

Published 11:53 am Tuesday, September 20, 2022

We all memorize our surroundings in our day-to-day life. Whether it’s inside the house or out on the road, objects in our path are cues to tell us our location. 


Years ago I was driving home from college and missed the turn to my childhood home. The shops at Greenridge (or “Gridlock”) on Woodruff Road were being built and the trees that signaled my turn onto Garlington Road were cleared since my last visit.

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I blew right by Garlington Road and was crossing I-85 before I realized what happened. 


It’s a guarantee that any changes in the bedroom or hallway furniture will be found by your pinky toe. I’m surprised I still have one for as many times as I have stubbed it on furniture in the dark. 


A thought that occurred to me while deer hunting this weekend is that even a subtle change in environment alerts them to a new presence. 


Like in a movie, the smoldering cigarette butt on the porch raises anxiety in the viewer as the victim who doesn’t smoke walks into the house. In the deer’s woods, a new blind or a ladder on a tree will catch a deer’s eye and will give them pause. 


Walking into the river bottom Saturday evening, I made my way slowly to a tree to climb. When I picked the perfect one I started to remove branches that could deflect my arrow overhanging the old creek bed. After a few minutes, I had cleared my shooting lanes and set the branches out of the way five yards next to my tree. 


I monkeyed my way up the tree, staying attached with a rope the whole climb. Once I was up and set, I did what deer hunters mainly do: wait. 


It wasn’t long until I heard the telltale slow walk of a deer through the undergrowth beneath. I slowly turned my head and saw the white beams of antlers flash through the foliage. 


The buck was headed right to me. In fact, five yards from me. Right where I plopped the pile of branches. 


By now I could see he was a young deer that I would give a pass if he came into range. Closer and closer he came until he stopped when he reached the pile of branches. 


 I can only imagine what was going through his mind. “Wait, these weren’t here earlier.”


He stood still five yards from me and processed the new decoration in his hallway. “How did these get here?”


The buck looked around nervously and probably thought, “Wait, I remember that smell from last year. That guy really stinks. I’m getting out of here.”  


The deer slowly retraced his steps and walked away unscathed.


Animals are creatures of habit. Change their habit drastically, and you won’t see them even if you aren’t hunting them. I only wish I had the senses a deer does so I wouldn’t stub my toe when we rearrange the bedroom. 


The author in a tree during a recent hunting trip.