The morning air is cool and as tart as the antibiotic-laced apples that Enid Feinberg feeds to dying deer in her backyard. It's September again. Feinberg draws a deep, determined breath, and then, as she does before dawn every day of whitetail season, steers her sport-utility vehicle up her quarter-mile-long driveway and starts her rounds.
The first bucks are just past the mailbox; their heads snap in her direction.
"Hey, sweeties," she murmurs to herself, and they bound off almost before the words have left her lips.
Feinberg and her life partner, Lierra Lenhard, could watch deer for hours, and sometimes they do, sitting in chairs near the edge of their 14 acres of woods. After living for seven years in this rural part of Phoenix, the women know the animals like friends. They've grown used to the sweet way the does mother their fawns and are no longer alarmed when the bucks' necks swell to linebacker proportions just before mating season, and the velvet peels off their antlers in long, bloody strips.
But Feinberg isn't searching for deer this morning. She's on the look out for tire tracks through meadows, and pickup trucks with no condensation on their windshields and still-warm engines. In the weeks before Sept. 15, the beginning of bowhunting season, she and Lenhard canvassed their neighborhood and others off Dulaney Valley Road, acquainting themselves with the local cars. Now, unfamiliar vehicles that might belong to trespassing hunters stick out when Feinberg makes her daily circuit. A Ford 4-by-4 with a gun rack is a dead giveaway, but she's also known hunters to stuff carcasses in the backs of Volkswagen sedans.
This early, the fields and front lawns are still padded with fog, and it's easy to envision what the neighborhood was like a decade ago, when it was woods and a 300-acre farm rather than a colony of jumbo homes, the sort of pseudo-pastoral suburb that increasingly characterizes Baltimore's outskirts. But even though the developments keep coming, most times it's still quiet enough to hear an acorn drop. Autumn would be the most beautiful season of all if it weren't also the most terrible.
"I hate the fall now," Feinberg says.
The walkie-talkie in her lap is a direct line to Lenhard, who's patrolling on foot in the woods. Feinberg also takes a miniature video camera to record hunters' transgressions, a range finder to figure distances and a neon orange scarf to fling around her neck if she needs it. Otherwise, she wears black.
Suddenly, she yanks the wheel to the right and hits the brakes.
"Oh, no," she says. "What is that?"
There is a lump of something brown way out in a neighbor's field. It could be a downed deer, or it could be a crouching man with a taste for fawn meat, the sort of predator who shot Smiling Buck a year ago. Feinberg whips out a pair of binoculars. If it is an illegal hunter, she'll call the state Department of Natural Resources, but she'll also confront him herself, scream, guard a deer's body with her own if she has to.
The hunched shape turns out to be a pile of leaves.
This dawn is safe or seems to be. Feinberg receives an all-clear call from Lenhard in the woods, and another from a neighbor checking the roads on his way to work. Though they can't vouch for the nearby properties where owners permit hunting, the off-limits land seems to be OK, and their duty - which takes 20 minutes if nothing is amiss, and sometimes the whole morning if something is - is done for another day. Feinberg turns back down the driveway of the large brick house Lenhard designed, carefully landscaped with burning bush and other deer-proof plants, and pulls into the garage, filled with sacks of sunflower seeds for the birds, peanuts for the squirrels, and corn and apples for the deer.
She still gets a chuckle out of the sign they've hung outside.
"Deer Lovers Parking Only," she recites. "All Others Will Be Hunted."
A wild life to wildlife
Things weren't always this way.
Before Lenhard and Feinberg, built their home here, they rarely thought about wildlife rights. They were city girls, transplants from Manhattan who, until they got the urge to move out to the country, lived the wild life themselves. Of course, they were always animal people, Feinberg, the daughter of a Westminster dog show judge who grew up on a Maryland farm in the late 1950s and '60s, and Lenhard, a cat fancier ardent enough to design a home with a built-in catwalk. But they never dreamed they would need to recognize the roar of a muzzleloader, leap over streams and tree roots in pursuit of trespassing sportsmen, or keep their woods under video surveillance.