Big Joel's Safari has a new feature called the Deer Encounter. You are allowed to go into an enclosure where there are several deer who are so familiar with humans that they will let you walk among them. I knew about it because a staffer told me personally because we were one of two couples there at that time, because there was an impending thunderstorm. (I asked Big Joel himself: he said it had been very busy earlier in the day. Everyone else was avoiding the rain.)
The sign on the deer enclosure warned me that I needed to walk slowly and calmly, and not shout, and the deer might even let me touch them, but I couldn't touch their antlers. I slowly crept in and was greeted by a staffer who pointed to a spotted deer lying down 10 yards away. The staffer said the spotted deer was pregnant.
"Won't that make her cranky?" I asked. "I've never been pregnant, but I understand it makes ladies very cranky."
No. It makes ladies hungry. I was just coming into the pregnant deer's peripheral vision, when the deer hopped up, came over to me, and bumped my jumbo plastic cup of feed with her nose. And then for ten minutes I fed her. She chewed, bumped the cup, I put more food in my hand, repeat. I was unable to pet her, because I held the cup with one hand and she ate out of my other hand, and she was running the show and there would be only eating: none of this petting nonsense.
I really wanted my husband to see it, but animal behaviorist Gary was protesting the unnaturally tame deer. He turned his back on the enclosure and tried to bond with the naturally skittish deer behind the fence. I couldn't call out to him because of the no screaming rule.
He eventually turned around after I was set upon by two more dark brown deer. The spotted deer was still knocking the cup, so one of the brown deer decided that she would communicate her desire for food by chewing on the front of my shirt. So then I had two deer to feed, and still no hands to pet them with. The third deer was not interested in the grain I was handing out; she just wanted to be nearby to taste some flesh when my body fell to the ground and was trampled.
Eventually, when I was down to the dregs, Gary turned around and came over and consented to feed the deer so I could pet them. He then insisted we walk on a gravel perimeter path to the other side of the enclosure so I could see the deer he had bonded with. All three deer trotted next to me like they were my pet deer now. "Take us home so we can enjoy some onion soup or whatever else you have left over." Eventually after three minutes the two brown deer gave up. I had to pointedly put my hand over the feed cup and shake my head sadly at the spotted deer before she left my side. But for a good twenty minutes I felt like I had my own deer.