May 26, 2009
By Scott Bestul
I enjoyed my final turkey hunt of the season last week. This hunt, in the northern reaches of Wisconsin, is always one of my favorites. We hunt big woods country, far from farm fields and other hunters. The companionship is so great, and the experience so unique, that it makes the perfect cap to a spring season.
And perhaps even more remarkable…the sighting of this deer, first fawn of the season for me! I seem to stumble across a newborn somewhere during my spring wanderings, but until the Wisconsin hunt I had not been lucky. We spotted this days-old deer as we drove around a bend in a remote gravel road. The doe was standing at the road-edge, and as we approached, something small dropped to the ground beside her. I don’t know if the doe gave a vocal command or the fawn just crouched instinctively, but once her newborn hit the dirt the doe trotted a short distance into the woods.
Even as we pulled alongside her (him?) the fawn remained motionless, not even blinking as we took a few quick photos. Her spotted coat was a perfect camo against the dappled sunlight slanting through the trees, and I could see her chest rise and fall as she breathed only through her nose. It is a sight I will never tire of.
I have thought of that little deer often in the days since. She faces a difficult and uncertain future. Fawns are vulnerable in any clime, but in this area the predator load makes the ensuing weeks a truly high-risk period. Black bear and timber wolf populations are as dense as anywhere in North American; toss in the odd bobcat or fisher and life becomes even more complicated for a wobbly-legged creature.
I consider myself a pragmatist when it comes to Nature; I know predators have to eat because I am one. But I can’t help but cross my fingers for this little deer that reminded me of the miracle of new beginnings.