"Bayou Bill" Scifres
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Recent Rambles
Copyright © 2006 by Bill Scifres
May

A strange thing occurred recently as I stalked the wily morel in my favorite Boone County woodland. A deer, not morels, was the focal point of the whole affair. 

I am meandering through the woods with my eyes peeled for morels when movement of something catches my eye 50 yards ahead. 

No matter what I am doing, movement in the woods always stops me as fast as running into a brick wall. As I stood motionless, a very large doe stood up and looked in my direction without any indication that she would bound away showing her beautiful trademark . .  .the large white  tail. 

Sensing that I was in a position to get some unusual pictures, I slowly eased my camera (105 mm lens) into position, slipped off the lens cover, and allowed the camera to do the rest. 

Under these circumstances, the click of the shutter sounded like a solid-brass doorknob falling on concrete floor at 2 a.m. on a zero morning. But although the doe’s twitching ears told me she heard the click of the shutter, she made no move to depart the premises. 

“Wow!” I silently said, “I think I am on the threshold of her maternity ward.” 

The thought that I would get to see her fawn raced through my mind, but remembering a similar incident more than half a century earlier, told me emphatically that I would do well to keep my distance. 

That episode of yesteryear unfolded on the west (Vernon) fork of the Muscatatuck River in Jackson County. I was bank-stalking bass with a fly rod, and was churning along the brush-infested high banks of the river at the edge of a freshly-planted corn field when a large doe sprang out of the brush, stopping abruptly and turned to take a good look at me. 

For a few minutes we tried to stare each other down, but eventually the doe moved south along the edge of the brushy banks before bounding across the field and into a bottomland thicket. 

I continued my trek along the brush line, but 20 yards or so past the spot where the doe had emerged from the brush, I became aware that there was something behind me. Stopping, and doing a 1980-degree turn, I found a wobbly-legged fawn that must have thought I looked like her mama. 

Remembering that deer can be formidable fighters when their young are threatened, I waived my arms and tried to “shush” the little fellow back. But when I tried to walk away, she followed. 

Finally, I walked back to the fawn to get acquainted. But, knowing that I almost assuredly was being watched, I kept my eyes on the spot across the cornfield where the doe had  entered the thicket. 

Before the fawn and I could strike up a long-lasting friendship, the doe came full blast across the plowed field. I dropped my fragile split bamboo fly rod and headed for a nearby tree with limbs low enough to be climbed. 

My shoulder-strap tackle bag caught on a limb as I went up the tree, but I continued, the bag falling to the ground with my angling paraphernalia. Ten feet up the tree I was safe and I enjoyed my ringside seat as the doe returned, straddled my fly rod without breaking it, smelled her fawn, and took a long look at me before walking back along the river bank with the little one in tow.

That lesson came back to me last week when thoughts of searching for a fawn in the weed/brush infested area where I first saw the doe. And I told myself that if that doe had stashed a fawn in the brush, it would forever be her secret. Anyhow, I couldn’t see tree I thought I could climb.

The doe stood motionless for several minutes, and her glances in the direction of the area I thought might be her nursery seemed to confirm my suspicions. But when I started backtracking out of the picture, she moved out of the area, stopping often, while keeping her eyes on me.

Giving the area where I had first seen the doe a wide berth, I continued my mushroom hunt without further incident. And though I had not confirmed the presence of a fawn, I had some good shots of the doe. 

Although I have had some success at foster mothering wildlife babies over the years, wildlife management experts will tell you, and rightly so, that the best plan is to leave wild waifs where you find them, even though it may appear that they have been abandoned by their mothers. 

In cases where a wildlife mother had been killed, young animals (even birds) can be reared with some success, but in most cases it is well to place the unfortunates in the hands of wildlife rehabilitators. 

The Division of Fish and Wildlife has an ongoing program for rehabilitating injured and “lost” critters that offers more than 100 licensed rehabilitators around the state. That program has a telephone hotline  (1/800/893-4116) that offers a wealth of related information. The program also can be accessed online at--www.wildlife.in.gov--(http://www.wildlife.in.gov/)  (click on “Nuisance Conflict”). 

There is nothing more interesting or exciting for a lover of wildlife that observing the “broken-wing” act of an adult bird that is luring you away from her young. Just follow the troubled mother, and feel good about being duped when her wing suddenly is better and she flies away--knowing here babies are safe. 

In most states, those who elect to take in wildlife babies must have a permit from the Department of Natural Resources.

 Click on thumbnail image for enlarged view.

This big doe posed willingly for me, but in reality she may have been luring me away from a new fawn. 
deer.JPG (62909 bytes)


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All columns, stories, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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