Learning The Ways of a Herd… Finding a New Family

Daisy babysitting the little fawn… the mama doe is nowhere in sight.

In late July, the 100-degree temperatures were bringing all sorts of wildlife to the water tub and feeders in the canyon.  Often, I would find Daisy deer laying at the base of the slope, in the soft grass that I kept watered all summer.  Hackberry trees shaded the area and the large water tub offered a cool reprieve from the scorching summer sun.  Sometimes I caught Daisy snoozing.  The spot she chose to rest offered her a nice vantage point to watch for predators from all directions and made for an easy escape route.  And, she could watch her “people”, FD and I, just up the slope from where she laid.  Sometimes, if the insects weren’t too bad, I would go down and sit beside her, running the old horse brush along her coat and talking gently with her.  Other times, I brought apple or blackberry snacks for nibbling.  Most of the time though, I left her alone to rest.  I knew it was her desire to catch up with other deer frequenting the area and I didn’t want to interfere with her chances to meet up with them.

Looks like both the babysitter and baby are taking a snooze during nap time!

One particular morning, I went to the back porch to tidy up and noticed Daisy laying in the grass down below the slope.  As always, I did a quick scan of the woods to see if there were any other deer around.  I was surprised, and could not quite believe my eyes, when I found a little fawn resting against the water tub, just a few feet from Daisy.  I looked around further and saw no sign of the dominant deer.  This was her little fawn.  I had seen them many times over the last couple of weeks, sometimes spotting Daisy following behind them.  This morning, it appeared Daisy was babysitting!

Daisy awakens and spies me as I move closer, while the little fawn sleeps soundly.

Daisy, being alert in her role as caretaker, of course saw me as I attempted to get photographs from the back porch.  She looked at me briefly, then went on with her job watching out for her little charge, who appeared to be very sleepy.  Both Daisy and the fawn were hot. Their ribs moved up and down while they heaved in the deep breaths of sleep, and sometimes I caught them panting.  This always appears a bit funny to me because panting deer have an extremely happy look, as if they’re smiling.  I looked around the canyon area again. The mama doe did not seem to be around.  Perhaps she felt safe enough leaving her fawn with Daisy in this area of the woods.  This made me feel good.

Hiding in trees on the hill, I get a better angle on my speckled friend.

I remembered my own days of babysitting when I was a young girl.  Being the eldest of five kids, I had grown up with the responsibility of caring for my siblings at times.  However, babysitting jobs away from home were always much better than watching my siblings, because I earned money, and I generally had some respect from my little charges.  For the most part, the families I babysat for appreciated me, and the kids I took care of adored me.  My siblings did not afford the same experience.  They were hooligans most of the time… holy terrors!

Daisy looked just like this when she napped as a little fawn. I can’t tell if this is a doe or a buck but it sure is a healthy baby!

I decided to try to get closer to the fawn by taking a little side path down to the woods.  I knew if I was going to avoid disturbing the fawn, I would have to go barefoot.  It was so dry out that leaves and twigs cracked and snapped under the pressure of shoes or flip-flops.  I had discovered weeks before that going barefoot was best when trying to photograph wildlife.  The bad thing was, my feet were not yet conditioned to the dry, prickly grass and sharp twigs.  As a kid, I remembered, I could run full-out on crushed rock and gravel.  My feet were tough and calloused from going barefoot all summer long.  These days, I was a tenderfoot, but I wanted close-up photos of the fawn… so I endured the discomfort.

Ambling down the animal trail on the side of a nearby hill, I ducked under low-hanging branches, and scooted down the dirt on my rear end.  And yes, I was careful to look for poison ivy.  I finally opted to sit on a tree root that humped up out of the ground.  Insects discovered me immediately of course and, being tucked in on the side of a hill, I felt no breeze at all!  I was sweltering in the heat, sweating profusely.  Daisy, meanwhile, looked rather comfortable in that soft, green grass, while she looked back at me, and then over to her little charge, who was getting quite  heavy-lidded, and just about to drift off to sleep.

Once it spotted me, the little fawn leapt up and began the stomping action I had observed its mother, and other deer do many times before.

I sat on the tree root for a while, snapping photos until the ants found me.  Deciding this was no battle I wanted to pick, I stood up slowly, and carefully made my way to the woodland floor, directly across from my subjects. Maybe I could get just a bit closer with the fawn sleeping!  Daisy watched me while I managed a prickly walk closer. I skillfully made my way to a great vantage point but had not yet had time to crouch down, when the fawn spotted me!  Quickly up on its hooves, it stood and stared, stomping as its mother often did.  Daisy, of course was not at all alarmed, because she saw nothing to fear.  I am her mama after all!  But the fawn sensed danger, and high-tailed it off to nearby trees, only stopping and turning around to get a better look at me when it thought it was at a safe distance.  I stood still, talking to Daisy while I shot a few more pictures, and then turned to walk, painfully, back up the hill.  As I made my way back to the house through the crispy, dead grass up on top, I noticed the little fawn was still watching me.  Daisy had risen and was watching the fawn, probably wondering what had spooked it.

Maintaining a safe distance now, the fawn watched me amble back up the hill. Daisy’s calm presence kept the fawn from high-tailing into the woods!

For several days after, I noticed Daisy laying in the shade with the fawn nearby.  Sometimes the mama doe was around and sometimes not.  Other times, I saw the doe standing at a distance and watching Daisy and the fawn eat at the corn feeder, as if a sentry, looking out for danger.   I also observed the doe hoofing her own fawn, and not very gently I might add!  I captured endearing moments between Daisy and the fawn, sometimes seeing Daisy gently hoofing the fawn away from the corn.  There seemed to be an understanding of the hierarchy between these two.  Daisy was making a place for herself in this small herd.   The more I observed the three of them, the more I understood Daisy was beginning to be trusted as a member of the herd.

Daisy, the fearless babysitter.

All through the August days of Indian Summer, Daisy spent most of her time with the doe and fawn.  Occasionally, Daisy came to the water tub and feeder alone, looking off to the  north and west where her friends were often seen, as if she was expecting them.  When we are with her in the bottom, and she hears a distant snorting, she runs to her new herd, abandoning us for a little while.

Once again, I have trusted nature to take care of Daisy.  She has been provided everything she needs to survive and, in due time, her instinct has led her to a greater life experience than I could ever have hoped for her to have.  She is lucky… I know.  She has managed to cross an unlikely bridge.  Raised by and bonding with human parents, predators to her kind – then freed to discover her wild ways with only instinct to guide her.  Daisy has managed to cross that bridge, while trusting the path on either side.  What an incredible life she lives!

This little fawn was more curious about me than scared of me!

We too, can live by what we have been taught and what has been instilled in us.  But, we can also tap into our instinct and yearning, to discover what lies in the unknown, and flourish… quite naturally… in the wild!

© Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…


37 thoughts on “Learning The Ways of a Herd… Finding a New Family

  1. “But, we can also tap into our instinct and yearning, to discover what lies in the unknown, and flourish… quite naturally… in the wild!”
    I agree with you on this very much. Sometimes, we are scared of what lies ahead that we never as much make a step forward. We should learn something from Daisy.

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    1. Thank you, and yes, fear often keeps us chained where we are. I believe that is in our minds only. Living in the moment, as animals do, allows us to explore what approaches us now… and as you say, if we “make a step forward” we might glean new possibilities!

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    1. Thanks Sandy Sue! The little fawn is a sweetie and looks very healthy. Daisy is hanging with a different doe the past few days. One that looks like Miss Scarlet (but isn’t her), and very dominant. There must be quite a few dominant does around. Poor Daisy tries to get along with all of them. Hmm, sometimes that is not so different from what we experience as humans!

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  2. Man, I get choked up reading this – I suppose it’s part sadness that Daisy’s gradually distancing herself from you and part happiness that her instinct is allowing her to become ‘wild’. Whatever it is, it’s powerful. Do you and your husband expect to continue seeing her throughout fall and winter and beyond?

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    1. Sid, we always hope to see Daisy… I have a friend in Texas that raised a fawn, and still, eight years later, her deer Sassy comes to visit almost daily. She has her own family herd now. Another friend in Kansas goes out into the wild herds and sits with deer. http://deerpaparazza.blogspot.com/ They come to her many times. She has many of them named. It took years for her to gain their trust, but they always know her. I don’t think Daisy will forget us or stray from us. Of course there is always the chance she will leave, just as our squirrel Frosty did, and all of the birds we have raised have done. It is not something I think about too much. If Daisy disappears for more than two days I find myself searching and praying. I suppose that is what a parent always does!

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  3. So sweet. They do babysit for each other – the mom is probably grateful. It does look like she is becoming accepted.
    Do you worry that Daisy has too much of a human smell on her that makes other deer hesitant to let her approach?
    Do you think the fawn sees you with Daisy and will learn you are her friend – and not to be feared? (You might end up with a bunch of deer wanting to be brushed! That would be amazing.)

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    1. The human scent was something we worried about a little bit in the beginning, but after months of observation I don’t think our human scent is a problem for Daisy. Our scent would be noted in the feeding area and the woods since we frequent that, and Daisy is often found there. It doesn’t seem to be a problem. I have also been with Daisy, feeding or grooming her while other deer looked on from a distance. Most of the time they watch quietly – no snorting to alert others of danger. I feel they are either curious or they feel safe knowing Daisy doesn’t fear me. I hope in time that the deer will get used to seeing me down there and not fear me. Of course that would require me to spend a lot of time sitting and waiting. That will require a lot of patience! That might be easier in the fall and winter months when the insects, ticks especially, won’t be a bother!

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        1. This morning I accidentally scared off six deer in the pasture just south of our house and near the woodland edge! I would have been more careful if I’d known they were there. However, I see this as a good sign of them feeling more comfortable in that area of the woods, near our house. I could not tell if Daisy was with this little herd… all I saw were tails up high and rear-ends taking off into the woods. Yes, you can bet I’m anxious about snakes during the warm months, though I’m not nearly as afraid of them as I was when we first moved here! I am looking forward to the fall and winter!

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  4. I love it that Daisy is becoming accepted by other deer; it is so cool that she’s moved up the ladder to “babysitter”. Before Daisy came into your life, I hadn’t really given much thought to how deer coexist, or that there was any sort of “pecking order.” Through your eyes and words, I’ve had the opportunity to observe both the gentleness, and sometimes harsh reality that exists in the animal world. I love the pictures, they portray your little corner of the world so perfectly; serene and welcoming to all.

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    1. I did not know much about deer either, before Daisy came into my life! As with anything, when we are presented with a new scenario in our lives, it’s up to us to educate ourselves if we want to do our best. I think I’ve been a good Mama to Daisy.

      Oh, our little corner of the world IS amazing and I’m so glad at this point in my life I can immerse myself in it! I’m so happy your family came to visit again this year. We always have such a good time too… even when the well bursts a pipe and we have no water… right in the middle of your shower!!! Ha ha ha!!

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  5. Wow! Daisy certainly does lead a magical life bridging the gap between two very different things. It appears you also lead a magical life being in the midst of all that. Lucky, lucky girl!!! But that should come as no surprise to me as your “realness” comes through in the comments you have posted on my blog. Thanks for sharing 🙂 V ❤
    PS: Still struggling with my pics but I'll get there x

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    1. Oh, I completely understand what you say about the picture business! I don’t know how long it took me to figure out placement, and there are still times the paragraph has one hanging line that won’t go where I want it to go… then sometimes the font is large and other times the normal size. Sometimes I get frustrated with it and finally just let it be, whatever it is, it is. My writing is about pleasure and sharing and when something goes awry, I try not to let it get the best of me!

      I’d say it’s about time I experienced a little “magic” in my life! Daisy came along at a time I really needed her. And I suppose, I was finally at a place where I was open to listening to the message Universe had to offer. Daisy is a gentle teacher… as is all of the wildlife here. We just need to open our eyes and ears, and pay attention! Thank you so much for your kind comment. I really enjoy your blog!

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  6. It is so late, and I should have turned in two hours ago… but when I saw this post I just had to stop and read it. This is a stunning history and insight into the ways of deer…. I’m simply delighted that you endure such things as you’ve been doing to get a glimpse of it and to share it with us all. Many thanks. Merrill

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    1. Thank you Merrill! It is most fascinating to observe Daisy and her friends. I hope with the cooler weather approaching and the decline of ticks and other pests, that I’ll be able to spend more time in the woods observing. I’m learning to be patient!

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    1. Margaret, I had a good laugh when you mentioned being the eldest of the children in your family. There were many things I loved about being the oldest, but oh, there was never any respect when I had charge of my siblings!!

      I enjoy photographing Daisy, and when there are opportunities to capture other deer, it’s a real bonus for me. I hope we can put up a small blind in the woods where I have a better opportunity to get close-up shots. The zoom lens from the back porch does a fair job, but getting close to the subject is such a wonderful experience!

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    1. Hello there! Have you been able to visit any of the grand parks in NYC? I’m not sure if Central Park has deer or not, but I have seen documentaries on some of the birds that make homes there. I’m sure there are other small mammals that can be seen too. I think if you grew up in Arkansas it would be a difficult transition to the big city, not having the gorgeous vistas and easy access to miles of beautiful landscape. Hopefully, you manage trips back every so often so you can get your “country” fix every now and then! If not, you are always welcome to stop here and read for a spell. There are many stories in the archives!

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      1. I actually go to Central Park at least 3-4 times a week. I usually find my own little corner, under a tree and escape for a bit. I’m very excited to go back to AR for the holidays. Will have to check out your archives on a rainy day sometime 🙂

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  7. I’m SO far behind on my comments.

    Your photography is fantastic, my friend. And following the Daisy saga is so entertaining and enjoyable to read and see.

    I hope you and FD are well, and that you’re finally able to get some great cool days and nights now that it should be full-on fall in OK. 🙂

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    1. Well, I’m behind too! I see I haven’t gotten to your last post either! I may have to quit my gardens, mowing, housekeeping and cooking and just galavant through the woods with my camera part-time and write part-time. My Google Reader needs serious attention!

      Thank you for thinking of us! Yes, finally we got 4 days of slow rain last weekend, and the weather is turning cool now. The trees are just beginning to show a little color. We closed up the pool two weeks ago, and I’m digging the last of the garden… sweet taters!!

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  8. Reblogged this on bwardblog and commented:
    What beautiful pictures you blogged. That must be a very rewarding making sure that the animals are safe and well. I haven’t seen Oklahoma over the years yet, but the area where you have taken these shots looks like a heavenly place to me! Thank you for sharing the serenity and the beauty of nature! 🙂

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    1. Thank you so very much! You know, we create our own heaven sometimes. I often look over the area we live in and some might consider it a very unattractive place. But when we look at life from all points, it becomes interesting and beautiful. Often what I photograph is just a small window of the area. Beyond that, some might see ugliness, something barren or plain. I find all of life a miracle and simply amazing. This small, 10-acre area is filled with life and beauty from my perspective. Another might look at it and say, “You call THAT beautiful? It’s just a bunch of pasture and trees”. I see something else… as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder!

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