We all know by name Santa’s eight reindeer, but if we were to actually see a reindeer could we tell if it was Dasher, Prancer or Comet?
While they are not reindeer, the whitetail deer at The Dear Deer Farm southwest of Lucan are known not only by their name but their owner can point out one from another with relative ease.
With names like Walking Tall, Cinnamon Peaches and Sassy, the deer on the farm owned and operated by Denny Miller are not just livestock, they are like extended family.
After spending years working with registered cattle and horses, Miller opted to work with a different animal, and he said he is thoroughly enjoying the experience.
Miller actually was introduced to the deer farm concept through another deer farmer – Dwayne Davis of rural Seaforth.
“I started helping Dwayne off and on doing things like giving shots,” said Miller. “He kept trying to sell some of his deer to me.”
While the idea piqued Miller’s interest he knew taking on a project like that was not something he would be able to do on his own.
So last year in talking with his wife’s son, Steve, and his wife, Tiffany, who are both in the military, he discovered one of their plans after finishing up their military career was to get into deer farming.
“That took us by surprise,” said Miller, adding it also put into motion the work that has become the deer farm located on the home site along TH 68. “We had no fencing, no pasture and our land was rented out.”
Despite the challenges, the idea moved forward, and last year the first deer were purchased from Dwayne Davis.
Miller said raising deer is a lot different than cattle and horses, especially when it comes to the fawns.
“You have to bottle feed the fawns,” said Miller. “That way they are easier to work with, and they are willing to let you handle them more.”
The does, said Miller, are taken away from their mothers early on, at about 36 hours, and then are bottle fed for the next three months. Miller said he, wife Dorothy, and their kids and grandkids really enjoy working with the deer, and this has become a family project.
Miller said there are some specific regulations one has to follow, such as having eight-foot fences and maintaining specific records on each deer.
The process of getting certified to raise deer is done through the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, said Miller, who added the process was not that complicated.
Miller said the farm is still working through the entire certification process, adding the added certification allows them to ship the animals farther away.
Page 2 of 3 - “We have met a lot of super people through this whole process,” Miller said, adding so many of them are very willing to offer advice and help to those who are just getting started.
“For the most part this is a very family oriented business,” he said.
Even though there are some larger farms in the United States the majority of deer farms, including the five which are on record in Redwood County, are smaller family operations like the one Miller runs.
The deer are fed a special feed twice each day, said Miller, but he said he is spending a lot more time out in the pens with the deer.
“I just enjoy getting in with them and walking around,” he said.
The current area includes fencing on about 10 acres, which includes specific areas set aside for the does and the bucks, with the doe fawns and buck fawns also kept separate from each other.
Fall is breeding time for the deer, which then give birth in May and June, and Miller said the majority of does give birth to twins.
Sometimes, he said triplets are even born.
One of the things Miller said he really enjoys is sitting in his kitchen looking out the west window and watching the deer.
“We are watching them grow up,” he said. “That has been a lot of fun for us.”
Some may argue the deer being raised at sites like Dear Deer Farm are just pets, but Miller emphasized the fact these deer are being raised as part of a business.
So, what does one do with the deer being raised.
Some are kept for breeding, while others are sold to a wide variety of other farms, including some who collect doe urine, which then is sold as deer scent for those who hunt.
Some deer are sold to other breeders who might want to add to their bloodlines. Of course, some of the bucks are sold as trophy animals, too. Naturally, there is a meat market for the deer, too. Miller currently has one buck, who he named Walking Tall, and that buck has already helped Miller see success. This past year Miller took the antlers from that buck and entered them into a contest. The antlers scored 200 and four-eighths points, which was good enough for second place.
Miller said as he pointed out this year’s antlers he believes the score likely is going to be even better.
Miller said he takes pride in what he is doing, adding the animals are well cared for on the farm.
“We always want what is best for the animals,” he said. “We obviously want them to be healthy. These deer are our pride and joy.”
Page 3 of 3 - The deer must be checked regularly to ensure they do not have common deer diseases, such as chronic wasting disease or brucellosis.
Miller said there is concern on the part of the state in keeping those deer raised in captivity away from the wild deer population, and he said if a deer gets out of the pen and away from the farm those raising the deer have so long to find it before they need to let officials know it is loose.
Every deer has its own tag that helps those raising them to not only know them by name but also to know their genetics. Those tags stay with the deer as they go from one farm to another.
Miller expressed his appreciation to people like Dwayne Davis and others who have so willingly offered their experience to him.
Miller admitted he has had a lot of people stop by the farm, and he said that is great. However, he stressed the fact that these deer, like those in the wild are very skittish and can get stressed very easily around people and things they don’t know.
All in all, Miller said he is glad he took on this new venture. He admitted he is having more fun working than he has in a while.