By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

I like to consider it my short-fence deer preserve, and the deer that inhabit it are mine. All mine.

Well, not really, but I sure like telling myself that, about as much as I enjoy watching them outside my window.

For some reason, a herd of mule deer has adopted me, or rather the cheatgrass that pops up in my yard during the winter months when the brome and buffalo (and other assorted and unwanted weeds) die down for the season.

Last year, the herd became quite large after a short, but intense cold spell brought the animals together for safety and warmth.

This year, the herd is smaller, more manageable if you will. And more diverse.

The muleys range from young to mature, this year's crop to surely some that are several years old.

There's three bucks in this initial herd, one of which is the herd bull. He's easy to pick out, what with his nice-size set of antlers and robust body shape.

He is The Man, the one everyone follows.

Including the two smaller bucks.

I'm no deer expert, but I'm going to guess that they are likely year-old bucks. Between them, there's three antlers. Small ones at that, spikes if you will.

Both would be considered four-pointers, but one buck snapped off an antler, and now sports a short stub.

And yes, I can tell. They get that close.

Both of them took up residence in my yard recently as the weather started deteriorating, a light snow falling.

One booted out a young doe from her prime spot, so he could lay down and rest a bit. The other buck did the same, using a front foot to roust a doe from her spot.

There certainly wasn't anything special about the spot, other than she was there first, and the buck most likely wanted to assert his dominance.

That's the way it is in the animal world.

Someone is always boss, and all the others follow.

The mature buck grazed unconcerned about the others in the herd, and only glanced around when an unusual noise was heard. Seeing nothing, he sniffed the air for any sign of danger, until, finally, he was satisfied that no one had a set of crosshairs on him.

In fact, I did.

In the form of a camera.

Relatively quietly, I was able to open the door, slip outside, onto the deck and shuffle my way to the side to take photos. Previously, I had been taking them through the window where a close-up was all that was possible, they were simply that close.

I presume deer are like other animals, in that they become accustomed to their surroundings. They know my truck, they know my habits and they know I represent no threat.

They don't run from me, unless, of course, I get too close.

Little do they know how close I got.

It was a treat seeing my deer that close up.