I have had a change of heart now that deer in my neighborhood have wreaked havoc on my crops

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - The deer will not leave my poor garden alone!

Call me heartless if you must, but I think the next time I watch "Bambi," I'm probably going to end up rooting for the hunter.

Yeah, I know — I'm a monster, right? But let me explain. For several years of my adult life, I have grown gardens. Some were failures, some did OK, and others thrived, and we ended up with the kind of colorful bounty fit for a magazine cover.

This summer, the garden is well on its way to being the cream of the crop — pun intended — but we have a little problem. That problem has hooves that sink several inches into the soil, and it has an apparent appetite for homegrown fruits and veggies.

After years of hearing about deer wreaking havoc on flower beds and gardens, I have finally experienced it firsthand. They started with the strawberry patch, which was particularly offensive because this is the first time we have managed to grow a decent amount of berries. When they initially chomped the tops off a half-dozen plants, I hoped it was an isolated incident. But then it happened again…and again.

It was too late and too expensive to build a fence, so my wife got resourceful and suggested we try covering that particular garden box with a fitted sheet — yeah, you read that right, we tucked our strawberry patch into bed at night. Turns out, it was a perfect fit — if anybody else out there has a 4x8-foot planter box, a queen sheet will fit over it nice and snug.

So, there we were, scoring a victory — however unorthodox — over the deer…or so we thought. Strawberry plants may be their favorite, but they have no problem with sampling other crops. They decided next time to attack our lettuce plants, then they snacked on our corn stocks, and most recently, they found a squash plant. Fitted sheets aren't an option this time — the other crops are too tall for that. I had already ruled out fences, so I found myself in a vulnerable spot.

The good news is lots of people have faced this problem, and solutions abound. The bad news is I'm just not sure how much I can trust those solutions. I have heard about deer repellent sprays — but are they safe to put on stuff you plan to later eat? People say marigolds keep the deer away — but we have already planted several rows of them. You're telling me that's not enough? I even talked to a neighbor whose flowers became deer food and they had heard Irish Spring bar soap repels them. I'm not sure if that works or not, but if it does, you have to wonder who figured that out.

My experience with deer was already complicated before all this garden nonsense started. Growing up, I was that kid who always failed to see deer out the car window. Someone would get all excited and point frantically, "Deer! There's a deer! Wow, look at that!" — and I would see nothing.

So, when I first moved to Prineville, and saw families of them roaming the local neighborhoods, I was delighted, captivated. Finally, I got to see them, too! I took pictures and once kids entered the picture, I was the one frantically pointing out the window. It was so wonderful!

Well, I have since had a change of heart — my heart that was full of love for such majestic creatures has turned black with contempt for the destructive jerks! I have never gone hunting in my life, but I might consider it if only to increase the odds that my veggies will grow through the season. How much does a bazooka cost these days?

Some of you probably think I'm overreacting, and I'll admit that at first, I thought the same thing. What's the big deal? It's just a few plants, they'll grow back. But then I gave the matter more thought and I realized that it isn't just their impact on gardens — they are also notorious for damaging cars. I can't tell you how many times I have heard about someone smashing up their car because they collided with a deer or swerved to avoid hitting one.

"But those are just accidents!" you say. "You can't blame the deer for that!" Um yeah, I'm not so sure about that. More often than not, when I hear a deer-versus-car story, it's the deer that has jumped out in front of the vehicle. This isn't accidental, folks, this is premeditated, no different than suicide bomber pilots — deer sacrificing their lives to make us humans miserable. Who knows, maybe they're getting back at people who had the nerve to build a fence around their garden.

So, apologies to deer lovers, but I just can't deal with the critters anymore. The next time I see one out the car window, you might see me pointing my finger — but it won't be the index finger. They're destructive, insensitive jerks and until I get another fence built, they are public enemy number one.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get my popcorn ready. It's time to watch "Bambi" again.

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