The early morning cool greeted me as I bumped along in the electric buggy, cruising down the path into the woodlands. Recent rains made for a muddy slide down the sloped pathway, as most of the soil in this area has a lot of clay in it, which really makes for slick travel, especially by foot. Deer are much better equipped to amble up and down the terrain here, with those handy hooves and long legs. This morning, I noted several small hoof prints on the path. Likely, it was the triplets and their mother who had traveled through. Maybe I would see them this morning, as they tended to browse just a short distance away in the willow area near the slough.
Since becoming a deer mother in 2011, when I took in and raised orphaned Daisy deer, I have come to “know” the local deer population in our area. I might have provided Daisy what she needed that first year of her life, but she took charge after that – introducing me to her world. Walking the woodlands with her changed my hurried and scheduled days, bringing about a calm I had never known. For years to come, I was allowed to tag along with Daisy, learning about the lives of deer, and observing her raise her own young. I also discovered other local does raising their fawns in the spring, and I noted bucks frequenting the area during the rut in the fall. Over the years, deer came and went. Some stayed a time, while others never returned.
This year, I was away a lot, traveling to visit family in Nebraska and taking that wonderful trip to Germany. And I have stayed busy entertaining more family and friends since my return. But as I tootled along in the buggy this morning, I felt a familiar tug of emptiness. It hit me this summer, as I worked in the orchard clearing new paths along the slough, that I have not seen Daisy since she took off in late August 2016 after losing her last fawn of the season to predators. That was the same month we purchased the pecan orchard. And then there was Emma and Ronnie. I had not seen either of them since the rut last year. Emma promptly ran off in late October and Ronnie followed suit just a few days later in November. I missed my orchard companions, and I found myself looking for them everywhere I went.
With my travel this year, I missed out on most of the spring deer activity in the woodlands. But thanks to game cameras, we managed to observe two does raising fawns. One had a set of twins and the other produced triplets. A month after birth, the mothers bring their offspring out more, showing them the area while they learn to find good eats and practice survival skills. I do not see the twins so much lately, since they were a few weeks older than the triplets. I feel with a water shortage in the slough and the old river channel, they have probably moved on west, closer to the main river channel. But the triplets are seen almost daily. I have no idea who the mother is, but sometimes wonder if it might be Spirit, Daisy’s first doe fawn. I would have no way of recognizing her anymore. And, these young doe mothers could be Scarlet’s offspring as well. Scarlet still shows up occasionally with her two yearling does from last year. She did not have fawns this year, which makes me wonder if she’s old enough that she won’t have babies anymore. There have also been a few young bucks in velvet visit the feeding station during the night. Soon they will be shedding the soft velvet from the exterior of their antlers.
I photograph this year’s triplets often, but from quite a distance. I realize just how fortunate I’ve been over the years to know the deer in the area and have such fantastic opportunity to take great photographs. But I miss my stoic and fearless Daisy and Emma girls. I look at the wrecked shrubs and trees that Ronnie worked over while shedding the velvet from his antlers last fall, and I think how he could wreck everything again, and how it would delight me… because I miss my “kids”. I carry the camera everywhere I go, just in case they decide to return home one day.
Though I know the lives of Daisy, Emma, and Ronnie are as they should be – free and wild – I often wonder where they are. This area of the state is heavily wooded, and the river that runs nearby winds for miles, thick with vegetation and cover. I can’t help but wonder though, whenever we see a short, stout doe on the game camera with a nick in her left ear, that it might be Daisy making a visit. One recent night, I discovered a trio of adult deer – a doe and two young bucks – bedded down in the yard not far from the house, and I wondered if it might have been Emma, Ronnie, and Spike. Later, I saw the same trio in the orchard near the slough just before dark one evening, where they bedded down just yards from the buggy. I called Emma’s name, and even though none of them reacted to my voice, I knew it was silly to think they would come to me anymore. They have been running wild for almost a year now, and I know it is better this way. It is enough to for me to think that maybe they come back home to their old stomping grounds to visit every once in a while, and find the same quiet and tranquility that I do as I roam this little piece of land.
© 2018 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…