The Honey Bear

Our families first deer, Bambi, came from a man in Danville who had collected animals. He had a wild array of animals and had decided to get rid of them. I still remember going to his house and waiting in the house seeing his monkey and others while my dad went out to pick a deer and get it loaded up. The monkey had been poorly treated at some point and was called SOB. The stories really involved the poor monkey having been tortured. I know in the end the monkey ended up turned over as a research subject at the University of Illinois.

While we were in the building waiting though I got to see a honey bear and wanted it. They were SO cute! Over time my parents collected more animals and the man kept selling off his animals. When he got down to the end of his collection the people buying the honey bears and monkey dropped by our house to see if they could make a deal with my dad. We had a large collection of deer by this point and I was really hoping! The men wanted the cost of two deer for a honey bear though, and my dad didn’t see the value in a honey bear…. In the mean time the honey bears had climbed all over the cab of their truck and locked the men out of their truck. Somehow my dad got them back into their truck, and back on their way. If I remember right my dad might have bought some deer from them though.

Buffalo Escape… Why have Buffalo? (Others escaped too)

Buffalo who have escaped in the next county have been all over the news this week. A family that farms has been raising them for meat and a herd broke the fence. The school bus was driving their route and happened to come upon a herd of buffalo and alerted everyone. The farm is now catching all the buffalo and putting them back in their fence. In their case the buffalo are for meat. Buffalo are leaner than beef and therefore a little more healthy.

Growing up we had a buffalo, this was over 30 years ago, but also on a farm. We really had a whole menagerie with deer, a cow, a crow, a goat, and basically whatever showed up or my father thought might be a good idea. My father had tried a beefalo burger and decided it would be a good idea to go with a friend to get two buffalo. They came back with a male and a female and we kept the female. The male went to our friends by the campground, where it lived for many years and was joined by the female years later. Ours, that we named Buffy, became a family pet…. a huge family pet in a pen, but a unique pet.

We had animals that we didn’t even bother naming and animals that we were closer with and Buffy was one that we were closer with. I really just remember one great escape for Buffy. The deer on the other hand escaped a few times! Buffy’s escape resulted from an owl that was trying to steal chickens. The owl would come down and steal the chickens and then fly off with them. Of course we didn’t know it was an owl that was the thief, so my brother put the chickens inside the top of a silo that was part of the animals fenced in area. The owl folded up it’s wings and went down into the silo to steal the chickens but then couldn’t fly back out. It was making so much noise that the buffalo was frightened and ran directly through the fence.

Luckily our buffalo was easy to coax back into the fence once it was calm again. Over the years we did have escapes of other animals that were harder to coax back. There was a white fallow deer that escaped that was never captured and lived in the woods by Oakwood for years after she ran away. One escape involved a deer that stood up with at least 4 men on it’s back.

Our first deer was a buck we named Bambi (we were not very original). He was super friendly, but could be dangerous when he had antlers thinking he would play games of butting you in the head with his antlers…. like deer play in the woods. My mom tells about looking out the window one morning and seeing a deer when they realized it was Bambi. At that point, my dad ran out and jumped in a jeep to chase it. They went back and forth through the field, he thought he could tire it out! Finally he got back by the fences we kept the deer in and my dad jumped out to grab it and pull it in the pen. Bambi who had a full rack of antlers proceeded to pin my dad to the propane tank between his antlers. Somehow the story always stops there, but I know the deer did end up back in the fence – I’m just not sure how it got from my dad stuck between it’s antlers to the propane tank into the fence nearby. One of the days I’m going to have to find out the rest of that story.

Robbie with Rosy the Goat and White Deer
Deer – Venison – Hunting?

Deer – Venison – Hunting?

Visiting home it’s not unusual to see deer. – Growing up we actually had deer as pets!  The deer I see on visits now are wdeer by Oakwood Illinoishite tail deer, indigenous to the state of Illinois.  (Growing up our deer were Fallow Deer) They are kind of like large rodents as far as farmers are concerned, but are also great for a beef replacement and a lot cheaper.  Deer come into fields and eat the corn when they have a chance.  Farmers can get nuisance permits to hunt in the off season on their own property to deal with deer coming to literally eat their livelihood.  That being said, deer are cute!  Speaking as someone that has several as pets, they are a little like cute farm animals that will eat from your hand when they are comfortable with you.

From past experience though deer can also be dangerous…. I’ve seen deer throw a tire in the air with their antlers and also hit the sides of their cage and knock the person standing next to it down on the ground. Deer can jump high into the air, so we kept ours with a cage made of old corn cob sides that were raised in the air enough to keep them in. The buck was dangerous with antlers, but I was always convinced he was trying to play with us like he would with other bucks in the herd.   Now though, our deer watching amounts to watching White Tail Deer from a distance.  They come into the fields todeer by Oakwood Illinois snack on corn and bean plants at the early hours of the day and just as the sun starts to set.


I like to take pictures of the deer – I actually caught a video of a deer the other day that walked beside our car, turned to look at me as if staring me down and then just started peeing. So far the only shooting I’ve done of deer are pictures……

The deer are everywhere.  We see them crossing roads, in the fields, and even every night at the Oakwood rest stop on our last visit. Some of my pictures are quick pull out the camera there they are again, and others are thought out, they aren’t moving pictures.  When we are home for good, it will be fun to try to catch deer in all their different stages.  I’d love to catch some fawns with their spots!


I can’t bring myself to actually hunt deer.  The last hunting I did was raccoons I think with my father.  We also hunted frogs for the legs and deer by Oakwood Illinoiscaught fish.  I’ll remember the traipsing across the field, shotgun, dogs included, and off to look for raccoons.  I also remember the sound of the raccoons squealing after they fell from the tree. The frogs I could take or leave and they went with the turtles that for us kids really just meant we got to play with heads…  Fish were something my father kept stocked in the pond.  I was horned by a catfish at a pond at the farm we called the Ranch and refused to fish anything but Sunfish and Bass after that.  Totally another story….

Now even with spiders I have a hard time killing them off myself.  I once put a spider in a container and told it, if it could get out it was free to go….  I couldn’t bring myself to kill it, but I also couldn’t LIVE with it in my house…. Don’t get me wrong! I don’t have any problem with others hunting as long as they use what they kill and don’t just shoot it and leave it.  Shooting for sport is wrong.

I remember as friends of my parents coming over to hunt over the years.  Sometimes the hunt was bow, and sometimes there was drinking.  I don’t remember seeing my dad drink much, so for me it was always a little funny to see the drunks come over and stumble around with plans to go out and hunt with fatal weapons.  I’ve seen them make plans to walk down each side of the field pointed at each other with shotguns, looking for deer to hunt.  Heading out with coolers of beer….  The time I remember most though was the friend of a my parent’s friend that came over drunk with a bow and needed string it.  He tried with an arrow in the bow!  I don’t think my parents let me see the gash, but someone had to rush him to the emergency room after that.

My dad would go out each year though and get how ever many deer he had permits for and hang them up, then my parents would spend the next few days packaging all the meat.  The kitchen table would be covered with a meat grinder, freezer paper, and parts of meat. My dad would run out to the barn and cut chunks off as they were ready for more and he would cut them up inside with big knives.  The deer were always hung up out in the machine shed.

A couple times my mother decided she wanted to cure the hides and dad took the hides off also. My brother and I had some play space set up in the basement…. Basement for us meant old concrete floor unfinished over 100 year old house where the coal furnace had been that was open to the dirt in some spots.  My mother took one room of the basement, read some books on tanning hides (the internet didn’t exist yet), and gave it a try!  I think the first step was to dry the hide out with salt, so the hides were in the basement covered in salt for months.   I don’t remember them passing that stage, or even what happened to them, but I’m sure they aren’t still in the basement of the old house with my brother living there now!


I do like venison, though the thing I like most about it is that it’s free.  To me it seems I’d be hypocritical to not be a vegetarian and say I won’t eat venison.  I’ve never really been able to tell the difference in taste.  If someone showed me two cuts of meat, I am fairly certain I could tell you which is which – deer is a lot leaner meat….  But my taste buds just aren’t that refined.   There is a difference in where the deer came from.  I know some deer come from areas that make them taste gamey.  Our area makes the deer taste the same as cows in my view. When I see deer running around in the field, my first thought isn’t that they are dinner – though I do have to admit it is in the top 10.  I’d say though I have the same thoughts about a cow.

Growing up dinner almost always amounted to my mother sending us to the freezer to pull out a type of meat.  We had huge deep freezes in the garage to store all the venison and by type of meat I don’t mean cow or venison.  Type of meat was written on each white wrapped package in black permanent marker!  There were tenderloin, beef chunks, hamburger, little steaks, deer roast, and more.  All labeled in my mother’s writing and all packed into the freezer in the white paper.  – Now my mother goes to a processing plant and gets the meat in a professional looking package.  She takes in any deer they have gotten and the butcher lets her know when it has been turned into what she has listed.  We just tried some new types of deer sticks this last visit!


I have no idea what will happen when we retire and move home.  Will my husband decide to give hunting a try?  I can’t see my children deciding to shoot deer with anything but a camera…

deer by Oakwood Illinois
deer by Oakwood Illinois

Buffalo and Deer and Snakes Oh My!

Growing up we had a lot of strange animals (no snakes actually, though we found quite a few)….   My dad would hear about something and run and get some animals. During grade school dad heard Bambi and Iabout a person with a collection of animals and decided he wanted one. We all loaded up and ran in to get what we could AND came home with a deer….  Pictured to the left is Bambi.  He was friendly and as long as he didn’t have antlers on, we could interact inside the fence.

My dad would try all sorts of things though.  At one point we had a crow that my dad found that would ride around on Bambi’s antler’s.  It had an injured wing, so the crow was perfectly content to ride around.  After a while my dad got more deer and we had a whole menagerie.

These were Fallow Deer, indigenous to Germany, and I’d swear my dad’s goal was to use them as lures to get deer to come closer while deer hunting.  We would have the local game warden visit each year to make sure ours in captivity were legal and not white tail (local deer).  Deer can jump amazingly high, so my father had high fences for them made out of old grain bins.  The only escape I remember took 6 men to get the deer back in the pen, and I remember the deer standing with all 6 on it’s back.

While picking up Bambi we also got to see an old monkey named SOB (mean! and abused) and some honey bears.  I wanted them SO bad at the time. My father tried later to trade for the honey bears but couldn’t make a deal.   I remember the visit by the guy with the bears (they are little bears), and the bears got loose in his truck and locked him out while he was dropping off deer at the time.

SOB ended up taken from his owner and became a test subject for the University of Illinois.  Even with all the odd animals we had and the quirky behavior my dad would never have abused an animal.  Even a dog we had (Peanut, and yes the matching dog was Butter) that bit my dad while he was trying to help with an infected ear, ended up going to a family with no kids.  The dog really had been ‘provoked’, so it wasn’t the dogs fault – and my dad knew it!

Later my dad and a friend tried Beefalo and decided it was GOOD! So they ran out and got two buffalo.  We got the girl who my brother and I named Buffy.  She was added to the herd at our house. Pictured below is my mother with the buffalo feeding chickens from the look of it.

scan0136It’s funny, at the time, although we all had a healthy respect for the animals and knew what each could do and when… we were in and out of the cages to feed them all the time. I’m sure I didn’t think twice about standing there to take this picture and I’m sure my mother fed the chickens, gathered eggs, and fed buffy and the deer like this a million times.

Buffy escaped once in my memory.  An owl got into the chicken coop and couldn’t get out.  As it flapped trying to get out through the top whole (an old grain bin top that had been cut off) – Buffy got scared and exited through the fence.  I’m sure that was a site for all the cars coming up the road.  Note: My parents do live on a dead end road and knew everyone around, but still a buffalo in the road on your way home ha
s to be a surprise.

IMG_9400Now as my dad’s memory goes, talking about animals is a way to connect.  Seeing deer, a snake, or the fact that my son decided to make a pet out of a frog he found at their house is a great talking point with my dad.  These deer were in my parents field! I do wish I had a way to show my dad pictures, I’m thinking I should move them onto my iPad to show him an image that he can see better – maybe put together a slide show of the things that he would find interested.  Konnor’s new frog, Konnor’s toad, the deer by the house, even his dogs (did I mention we had 32 dogs at one time growing up!)

We did have a few other unusual animals for short stints, but they always moved on quickly.  Everything from a ferret that tried to use a litter box in the kitchen to a a swimming pool filled with fish.  My father ended up with a pond filled with catfish that were trained to come to the sound of his footsteps so that he could feed them dog food!