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
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
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
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.
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.