"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

Pubs, beer and deer

By on October 28, 2019 in Uncategorized with 0 Comments
Looking for food in the midst of human intrusions.

You say the long winter nights can be boring, with little interesting on TV — 

try a sip of Science on TAP!

By Jamie Howell

Thursday night rolls around again. You could certainly settle onto the couch for another dose of Thursday Night Football with your bowl of excess calories to wash down with a couple bottles of the same. OR …

You could go learn something. 

What has anyone ever learned from Thursday Night Football anyway, besides perhaps the fact that the Seahawks have recently resorted to relying on luck to win football games? 

What if I told you, you could still enjoy a relaxing Thursday evening beverage, but come out smarter on the other end?

There appears to be a minor trend emerging wherein local brewpubs are opening their barstools for more intellectual endeavors. 

Last month, I reported on Leavenworth’s hilarious yet informative liquored up Tipsy Talks. This month, I thought I’d try something slightly (just slightly) more sober.

 “Science on TAP!,” a series presented by the non-profit Wenatchee River Institute (WRI), brings experts in the natural sciences to drinking establishments near you. 

On a recent Thursday evening, I joined a small gathering of lifelong learners at the Badger Mountain Brewing Company in Wenatchee to learn about deer over a beer.

The evening’s featured speaker, Von Pope, Senior Wildlife Biologist for the Chelan County PUD, had been coaxed away from his observation points and data sets for the evening by the fine folks at WRI in order to share with us just how tricky life can be for the gentle mule deer of Chelan County. 

Our resident population of doe-eyed quadrupeds, Von explained, face more hurdles than Edwin Moses at the ’84 Olympics. 

We build houses where their food used to grow; we run roads across their migration routes; we scare the pellets out of them with our mountain bikes and snowmobiles; and, of course, we shoot at ’em, hoping to mount a giant rack of antlers over the fireplace to admire as we happily gnaw on our venison jerky.

All this comes on top of the troubles Mother Nature dishes up with her harsh winters, wildfires and wily coyotes.

So, with Ghostfish Grapefruit IPA in hand, I sat back to simultaneously slake my thirst and my thirst for knowledge, as Von laid out just what’s happening on yonder hills to take the edge off some of our human intrusions. 

Here are just a few of the things I learned:

Mule Deer 101 

takeaways

n My arborvitae will never be safe: On slide three of Von’s PowerPoint presentation, he pulled up a picture of my backyard. 

Turns out the PUD, under strict orders from the Feds, owns and operates a 960-acre deer haven called the Home Water Wildlife Preserve that just so happens to sit directly above my house up No. 1 Canyon. 

You might know this area as the Sage Hills.

The preserve exists for the express purpose of providing our resident mule deer population (and other sensitive wildlife) with a safe place to overwinter. 

And since they started counting back in 2007, precisely 16,678 of them have been spotted enjoying their hilly respite. 

So, if you happen to be a tasty backyard shrub at my place, you’re living in a rough neighborhood and gentrification is not an option.

n I’m the interloper: The Sage Hills aren’t mine. Were it not for some diligent negotiations undertaken more than a decade ago by the PUD and the Chelan Douglas Land Trust, I wouldn’t be allowed to hike the lovely trail systems above my house at all. 

Originally, the mule deer and their wildlife pals were the only authorized users on the preserve. 

But wiser minds (and Von’s empirical data) prevailed, so that now hikers, runners and bikers are allowed in between April 1 and Dec. 1, while the mule deer are off enjoying an abundance of greenery elsewhere.

But for four frigid months from December through March, while the snow flies and dead twigs, icy grass and local arborvitae are the only things on the menu, the Sage Hills trails are closed because that property belongs to the animals and it’s vital to their survival.

n Hey, no hay!: There’s a Bambi-loving sector out there that adores those little black noses and twitchy white tails, so much so that they sometimes put food out to help them weather the thin times. 

Unfortunately, this can amount to loving them to death because, as Von explained, the deer have adapted so completely to their environment that the enzymes in their guts are dialed in exclusively for the digestion of the twiggy slim pickings available in wintertime. 

If you put out an alfalfa buffet, they could bloat and die.

Breweries aren’t 

lecture halls

Ordinarily, you would have had to pay me to go sit in a solemn auditorium to hear a lecture on the migratory patterns of mule deer in north central Washington. 

But in a brewery, suddenly I’m the one paying for the privilege of sipping a craft ale while experts like Von lay some knowledge on me. 

Sure, there’s some kitchen noise, clanking of pint glasses and cross-talk in the back. But, truth be told, it’s the unconventional learning environment that makes series like WRI’s “Science on TAP!” so smart.

In fact, because there happen to be TVs over the bar, you can even sneak a peek at how that Thursday Night Football matchup is going. (Von is a Green Bay fan, so on this particular Thursday it was a blessing in disguise that he was otherwise occupied explaining the meanings of wildlife biologist words like “piscivorous” to inquiring minds instead of watching the Eagles sink their talons into his beloved Packers.)

I’m a big proponent of the lifelong learning mindset. 

It doesn’t matter if it’s wildlife or still lifes. 

Venture out for an evening like “Science on TAP!” and not only will you stimulate those bored synapses, you’ll connect again with people in your community (they’re much nicer than you think — and smarter now, too!). 

Best of all, there’s never a test at the end, just a bar tab.

In keeping with The Good Life mantra that it’s not the years in the life, but the life in the years, writer Jamie Howell seeks out a new, local adventure that might just add some life to your years.

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