(WBIR-Sevierville) An East Tennessee couple built a place where visitors could not only pet animals but also hand feed them and walk among them.
Greg Hoisington said, "Our animals will really get right in your face. I mean they will. They see that feed cup and it's like man I'm your buddy."
He and his wife Lynn started the attraction in Sevierville about 25 years ago. The Smoky Mountain Deer Farm and Exotic Petting Zoo lives up to its name with Zonkies, and reindeer, and Rocky Mountain Elk.
"I think the parents probably enjoy it more than the kids do because they appreciate when an Elk that's this big comes up and gets in your face that's awesome. It really is awesome," he said.
Visitors interact with kangaroos and pot bellied pigs and goats. A lot of goats. There's big horses, little horses, and something called a Watusi. A what? It's an animal with really big horns.
But after all it is a deer farm. And the deep have big antlers.
Some East Tennessee hunters would love to get close to the animals but the only shooting allowed there is with a camera.
"And they're really neat creatures. It's more fun to watch them I think," he said.
Here's how they got the idea to start the petting zoo.
"One day on the way to the Grand Canyon my wife and I saw a sign that said deer farm. Being a deer hunter I figured well I've go to check this out. It was a place like this. So we decided when we get old and gray let's build one," he said.
Building it was a bit of a stretch.
"I was a city kid basically. It took me two year to figure out that you didn't need to wear gloved to pick up hay because the hay wasn't supposed to have thorns in it. So I got had about every way you can imagine but it took a long time to figure it out," he explained.
The deer roam on more than 140 acres but show up to hang out with visitors at the sound of feeding cups and during their regular meals.
Keeping it clean is a priority. Greg says all of the animals are well fed and get regular vet check ups.
You'll hear some odd noises and see some interesting creatures and feel some slobbery tongues as you walk among the animals at the Smoky Mountain Deer Farm.
It is open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas.