Wide-Eyed on a Windy Day

When we took in our orphaned buck fawn, Tukker, we created a better set up for his raising than for any of the white-tail fawns we rehabilitated in the past. From Daisy to Emma and Ronnie, FD and I learned a lot along the way, and made improvements accordingly to our fenced quarters and barn shelter, and to the way we provide care for fawns. The end result should always be a healthy fawn who can be released to the wild and manage on its own. In our operation, we do what is referred to as a “soft release”. Basically, once the fawn has reached an age and size where it can not only fend for itself, but also defend against predators, we open the gates to the pen and allow the fawn to come and go as it pleases. During the first few months after release, we continue to support the fawn’s diet with food and water until it is self sufficient. Even after that, we provide supplemental water and nourishment for our rehabilitated fawns, as well as for their wild, hopefully soon-to-be, “friends”.

With Tukker’s release looming, I was extremely anxious over the last three weeks. Tukker was beginning to show the signs of restlessness our other fawns have displayed – pacing, getting into trouble by snooping around, and engaging in general horseplay, so to speak. He became more bold about charging at me or raising up to challenge me in play, as fawns do in the wild. He often took to running around and around his pen, amazing me with his agility and speed. But, in spite of my anxiousness and Tukker’s restlessness, FD insisted we stick to the plan we had always followed – waiting to release the fawn until the weekend after hunting season ended.

As excited as I was for Tukker to be free, I also felt overwhelming anxiety and worry. Oddly, I had spent less time with Tukker than with any deer we raised in the past. He was a lone buck that didn’t seem to need my attention like our other fawns had. Enlarging the roaming area of his pen provided him plenty of space to forage for eats, and my setup of bringing in branches and limbs for him to nibble and rub his little antler buds on kept him busy. With this less-intimate approach, I thought releasing him would be easier. But a mother always worries about her kids…

The first steps out of the gate had Tukker on high alert.

This past Saturday was the long-awaited release day, and I was dismayed at the weather forecast – windy with up to 40 mph gusts, and cold with highs in the low 40’s. When morning came, I fixed Tukker’s usual root vegetable medley and cracked a small bag of large, burr oak acorns to take for him to eat. The plan this morning was that I would feed Tukker while FD strapped two of the pen’s gates back for his release. It was just 26 degrees out and, though I had my warmest clothes on, I could feel the bitter cold biting through.

When FD opened the first gate, there was no ribbon-cutting, no band playing, and no grand exit on Tukker’s part. The wind already had him spooked, and he very slowly followed me out the gate with eyes wide open. I walked ahead to lead him out into our front yard, but Tukker stopped and looked back at FD, who was securing the second gate open. Keeping safely close to familiar surroundings, Tukker continued along the outside of the fence towards the gate FD was opening, taking a sniff of crepe myrtles along the way, then a sniff at the dormant grass, then jerking his head up to look around. He finally spotted FD walking his way around the other end of the pen, and made a beeline to him.

For the first hour, Tukker continued to move slowly and remained on high alert. When he did venture out in front of us, he looked back often to make sure we were still with him. For this first big walkabout, we took him around the ten acres, showing him where the feeders were down at the bottom of the slope, and where the water tub was. We took him to all of the places I knew our other deer loved to bed down and rest in the immediate woods of the Ten Acre Ranch.

Going up and down the slope gave Tukker access to the house where his people live, and also a quick route to where he would find the deer people someday.
There was a lot for a little fella to take in on that first outing!
Stopping to sniff and lick everything made for a slow walk in our immediate woods.
Tukker carefully steps through the grasses. The wind probably had him spooked most of the day.
As FD and I walked down in the bottom area below the slope, we found lots of coyote scat along the pathways. We even found deer rib bones that had been gnawed on recently. It makes a person wonder what all goes on in the night hours.
FD showed Tukker the pan that holds deer feed, and also the feeders we use to keep the wild deer (and now Tukker) nourished with Purina Antlermax all year long.
Deer love to snoop and like to nip and tug at anything they can get their mouths on. Unfortunately, Tukker was no help when he gave a good tug to the ribbon holding the batteries in the trail camera, and made more work for FD than just retrieving the photo card.
The old cast iron tub keeps thawed water for all species of wildlife during the winter months and cool, fresh water available the rest of the year.
Hurry up mom! Dad and I are already at the top of the hill!

After that first hour of walking around the Ten Acre Ranch, I waited with Tukker in the front yard while FD grabbed some fresh coffee. For his next adventure, we decided to walk Tukker through the orchard and all of the way to the west end of the property. This leg of the journey provided Tukker more of the same wide-eyed wonderment as we slowly strolled along, with him looking back at us along the way to make sure we were still there. I think had it not been so windy, the adventure would have been much more pleasant for all of us.

The path leading through Ten Acre Ranch to the orchard property.
The slough was a favorite spot.
Tukker found all sorts of good eats in the pasture west of the orchard. From here, we continued our walk towards the old river channel and all of the way to the west end of the property. Thankfully, the wind wasn’t so bad in the trees.

Later that day as the sun dipped low and the wind died down, I fed Tukker his normal evening meal of root vegetables and acorns. He was hungry and I felt bad just leaving him alone in the front yard, but I needed to get inside and fix dinner. FD went out after dinner to check on him, but it was dark by then and Tukker was nowhere to be found. Hearing this, my worry level shot up. Just before bedtime, FD decided to look and see if Tukker might be in his pen. I waited anxiously in the front yard while our three dogs did their last bathroom business of the day. Sure enough, FD came back smiling and reported Tukker was bedded down in his usual spot in some brush in the back of his pen. Apparently, our little Tukker’s wide-eyed and windy day had him plumb tuckered out, and the comfort and safety of his pen had called him home to bed for the night. But tomorrow would be another big day…

© 2020 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

 


45 thoughts on “Wide-Eyed on a Windy Day

  1. He’s gorgeous! Reminds me of my Friendly, with that white ring around his eye. You are such a good mom.

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  2. What an adventure for all of you! But all small creatures and little humans need to make their own way in the world and how fortunate is Tukker to have you put him on the right path. I saw two young fallow deer in our road coming home late from town the other night. I haven’t seen any deer around our way for some time. Our kangaroo population is increasing again with a mob of 10 hanging around late evening and early morning. Looking forward to the next post Lori.

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    1. We’ve taken Tukker on a few long hikes to the west end of the orchard, and I have to admit, I’m out of shape! I’m busy all of the time on this place, but apparently it’s not the same exercise as what I get with Tukker. I already have another couple of posts in my head. There’s so much going on right now with Tukker. Spring isn’t far off and then he’ll really be on an adventure! I’m excited!

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      1. My husband and I saw the pair of young fallow deer again today in the same place. There is plenty of thicket bushes and trees for them to hide along a dry creek bed. But this time, we were able to see that one of them had his antlers. I hope they are allowed to just be. I’m sure the adventures of Tukker and Littlesundog will continue!

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        1. It’s always a special outing to find wildlife nearby. Tukker’s second day out was very adventurous! I can’t wait to make time to write about it!! It makes me wonder if I’ll get much work done outdoors in the coming weeks. I’ll be out with Tukker as much as I can!

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    1. Hello, Paulett. I will be walking with Tukker on nicer weather days. We’ve had a cold snap lately so my time outdoors is limited. Tukker is reluctant to venture out to the orchard and seems content to hang around his pen for now. He manages to forage for good eats close to home. There will be a lot of good exploring this spring!

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  3. WOW! What a great adventure! I saw three does and a buck just outside of town. I see them often in this area. I haven’t seen our local residents lately but I think one was on the front porch a couple of weeks ago during the night. ) Thanks for sharing!

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    1. That made me laugh about the deer being on the front porch in the night. Tukker already knows his people go in the front and back doors of the house, and he’s climbed the steps to both porches, staring at the door. Eventually, he gingerly leaps off. I can imagine with all of your plants and gardening, deer are very likely to sample a few things in your yard!

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      1. Actually, as far as I have noticed, deer have only eaten leaves of plants twice in the 7 years I have been here. They liked the Agastache ‘Black Adder’ next to the side porch in 2014 and nibbled on it several times. Then a couple of years ago they ate have of the leaves of the Hosta ‘Potamic Pride’ when it was first leafinh out in the spring. SO, I certainly can’t complain.

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        1. I think you have been VERY fortunate!! Our deer kids have chomped most of my shrubs down, raided my herb garden, and ate my roses – not to mention bucks have done antler damage on most of our young trees. I used to have a long stretch of blackberry plants, but we’re down to a few scant plants. I’m not upset. It’s part of enjoying the wildlife here. 🙂

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    1. Thank you, Anne. There will be more to come. It’s been nice to carry my camera around and do some hiking to the old river channel and slough. Now if the weather would just cooperate and warm up!

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    1. Yes he will venture out more, especially in the spring when things green up a bit more and there’ll be lots of foraging to do. I do know he’s visited the slough. Ronnie deer also had a fascination for the water. Tukker set out the 2nd morning and came back with icicles hanging from his belly. Apparently, he ventured into the deeper water of the slough! Silly boy. It was 26F (-3C) that morning.

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    1. That is a good question, Steve. We have had less interaction with Tukker than any of the other three fawns we’ve raised. He’s had very little contact with people other than FD and me. I thought him being alone more, and not having a lot of human contact would help him acclimate to the wild better. Oddly, Tukker is the most people-friendly of the four fawns we’ve raised. It’s a worry to be certain. Daisy often visited the neighbors, and the park maintenance people saw her often. She was seen leisurely crossing roads. Emma jumped the fence to the residential area just south of us, on a weekend we happened to be in Dallas. We had freed her and Ronnie a few weeks before. Next thing a neighbor sent a screenshot of Emma and a lady from the neighborhood posted on Facebook. Tukker has also been to that fence, not afraid of cars or people. I think it’s curiosity. So, I will be walking with him to the woods a lot. I hope he will be more drawn to his natural habitat by being there more. After the last few days, I realize I’m out of shape for the long, slow moving jaunts to the old river channel. These outings will be good for both of us.
      We do let our neighbors know when we release a fawn, and I tell people who stop along the street not to pet her – and what we do with wildlife rehab. Most people are respectful. I also inform the police and city workers. It’s not perfect, and I know we’ve been fortunate. There is always risk raising wildlife so close to town, and one never knows what personality the animal will have.

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  4. No words that enhance/add to what you and others have said – but what a big day and your description/sharing of it turned it into fanfare/big band/ribbon cutting kind of moment, from my far away reader’s monitor – 🙂

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    1. Thank you!! Release day for any of our critters is exciting, but especially with fawns. I have a feeling Tukker will stick around here for a long time. I know I’ll be walking to the old river channel and working in the orchard some, in order to get him acclimated. He ran like crazy this afternoon, building stamina for long runs. It’s exhilarating to observe… I’m so happy for him!

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  5. Is it just me, or does Tukker have a very different look to him as compared to your previous visitors? Or maybe it is a trick of the camera that makes him seem larger and more robust? I really enjoyed this post! ❤ ❤ ❤

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    1. Thank you, Lynda!! Tukker is a lot like Emma was. In fact, the areas they came from are about ten miles apart, so it’s likely their genetics are similar. They’re both bigger deer and they have the “circle eye” marks that I do not see with our local herd. Ronnie and Daisy were smaller deer. Ronnie had a very interesting “wiry” undercoat that we have never read about or seen anywhere. Some deer have lighter coats while others are darker. I suppose like humans, they’re all individual. Gosh knows their personalities were all varied.

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  6. Little Tukker is just about all grow up now, as we are prone to say about human children. I am always in awe of the amount of work that you put into rehabbing each animal that you and FD bring to your home and or property. Rehabbing is very special and it is not for the faint of heart nor for anyone inclined to laziness.

    It seems that the only thing you will need to worry about with Tukker is his inclination to not fear people as much as you would like. It seems that each deer that you and FD rehab have all had distinct personalities- more or less. I reckon all species are like humans with varying traits and personalities.

    I remain addicted to your posts and photos since I love all wildlife and especially the birds, squirrels and deer. I hope you are well and will endeavor to get an email to you sooner rather than later.

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    1. You nailed it all, Yvonne. Rehab is a lot of work and it is very rewarding. Tukker isn’t venturing out as much as I’d hoped. He seems content to stay in his pen on inclement weather days, and he stays in the yard to ruminate. I know in the days and weeks to come I’ll be walking in the orchard and beyond to help him become familiar with the area. He will eventually find a herd to fit in with. That will be hard to watch. A singlet always has a tough time in the wild. We’ll just have to try to keep him away from the street at the front of the property. Gosh knows Daisy and Emma did enough carousing in the neighborhood to give me a stroke!! Let’s just hope instinct lures him to the woods and beyond. 🙂

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    1. Oh he’s a sweetie, Linda! Until he sneaks up from behind and tries to rub those antler nubs on your legs! Ouch! Tukker really has been the best little fella to raise though. I had it much easier with him than Daisy, Emma and Ronnie. I hope getting him acclimated to the woods will go just as easy. When spring finally arrives I think he’ll be more inclined to stick to the orchard. There will be lots of excellent greens to feast on!

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      1. He sure is sweet … you have to tell him he has to find another way to nuzzle up to you. 🙂 I hope it goes well in the Spring – those big eyes made me melt just a bit.

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  7. I love how you think of everything he might need to help him adjust to living wild. Walking him around the property to show him where things are…that just melted my heart. You are the best human deer mama!

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    1. Aw, thanks Kim. Daisy “let” me walk with her, and she was very fearless and went off on her own hikes. Emma and Ronnie had each other but I often spent time with them in the woods. Tukker has been the shyest of all, being very wary and doesn’t venture far. Even when we walk in the mornings, he watches for me, and comes running if we get too far from each other. It just takes observing to see what they might need. All of our fawns and even the local deer have taught me a lot.

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  8. Such wonderful photography and words about deer rescue and release would make a beautiful book, simple for children and more indepth for adults. There is much need for reassurance that kindness and care

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    1. Thank you, and yes, I’ve tossed around the idea of a book for years. When FD retires and there isn’t so much for me to keep up with around here, I hope I can spend much more time writing. Have you seen the movie, “A Reindeer’s Journey”? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7hhHoQYQRA I really connected with this story – and it is how I would hope a book would replicate the struggles and beauty of life in the wild.

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  9. I read this last week but didn’t have time to comment how much I enjoyed it, Lori. I marvel at your knowledge about rearing and releasing deer. I wish I’d had that kind of knowledge last week when I found the baby kangaroo. I couldn’t help but notice we are at opposite ends of the process with you releasing Tukker, and me feeling anxious about how Amos has settled into life at the Kangaroo Sanctuary. As always, I enjoy your writing and excellent photography. xx

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    1. Time… we all seem to have difficulty finding enough of it! I would love to write full-time, but life dictates differently right now. And yet, raising orphaned deer for the past eight years there has been much time allowed to observe and learn. It’s changed my life, as you know. I am not the same person as I was all of those years ago. Our encounters with the wild things changes us – it’s a gift to appreciate.

      Amos is such a sweetie. I didn’t realize they have so little hair. Amos will settle in and adapt. Especially, if the kangaroo sanctuary has a good program to help them acclimate back into the wild. Wildlife is so resilient, and that inner instinct and connection with nature is very strong.

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      1. I can already tell finding Amos has changed my life, too. Joeys have no hair until about 6 months or so, when they start to get it. In fact, when they are still ‘pinkies’ as the hairless ones are called, the carers have to moisturise their skin because when they are in the Mother’s pouches they stay moist, but as orphans they no longer have the mother’s pouch to do that for them. I think writing is great, but I’ve found in the last two years, I have to live my life, which takes time, otherwise, I have nothing to write about! At least that is true for me. xx

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  10. SO universal
    Mom’s anxious. Fawn turning back “hurry up mom!”. And plumb tuckered out at the end of the day.
    You write so well – with such delightful pictures.
    So glad you’ve made acquaintance and first meeting ( next post). A little sight relief…a little one…Moms worry and huff a lot, but they grow up anyway.
    Nicely done. Cheers!

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    1. Aw, thank you! It’s been a week now that Tukker’s been free. He still returns to his pen when he needs to rest, and he is still reluctant to get out there and explore much. He’s been good to forage for himself, so he’s not so interested in the root vegetables I prepare for him. We’re about out of acorns, which of course are like candy to him! Ha ha. We did notice another oak tree on the property that we weren’t aware of, as we hiked around yesterday. Tukker found a few leftovers there, so I’m confident that because he is a good forager, he will soon know the area well and remember the places with the best eats. We see and learn so much about wildlife and nature the more we’re out there with him. I really hadn’t been out just walking around since we freed Emma and Ronnie in 2017. I’ve missed these educational walks. 🙂

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      1. Actually I’m thrilled he’s in and out. We’ve got so many acorns here – Molly picks one up to bring home during our walks if she can’t find a stick she likes (she’s very diligent about cleaning up the neighborhood) and we started feeling guilty like I should ship you some…although not sure if the ones here have the preferred flavor.
        Tucker seems to have a good memory – found that water to go back and frolic in HAHA.
        Recently saw a show (FRD-TV) about a wild life rehab woman in Amarillo area who now has a real building and created a network of volunteers who are so busy . She had possum mom, large Canadian duck, and owls (3 siblings releasing) – so many creatures just need a little help and care until they can return to the wild. She started doing this as a child.
        Working among animals and nature you learn so much that humans normally miss ( and shouldn’t?)

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        1. I wonder if Molly might come spend the spring with me working in the orchard picking up sticks! Ha ha! I wonder if I’ll ever manage to get it cleaned up some. There are a few big limbs down too… would be nice wood for milling.

          I have to turn away a lot of the calls I get on orphaned wildlife and refer them to Wildcare, near Norman, OK. It’s expensive to do rehab and very time consuming so I have to limit what I take in. Formula alone for Tukker was nearly $300 for three months worth that gets them to the weaning stage. We keep our deer for six months to release, based on what we observed with Daisy deer losing her fawns at various stages to predators. Most fawns were lost during the rut when the mother’s are off being bred. So it’s a long haul that requires a lot of supplemental food, and dedication to foraging for them, giving fawns the best chance once they’re on their own. But oh my, the education that has come with each fawn, even after they’re released. We also enjoy raising squirrels. I’ve taken part in dog rescue and fostering for a lot of years too. It’s all rewarding, but fawns are my favorite.

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  11. I love reading about your deer, I am a wildlife rehaber in Texas and do so dearly love the animals. You keep writing and I’ll keep reading…I’m just learning about all this blogging stuff so bare with me on my site but please do look at it..

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    1. I’m glad to have you on board, and it’s always wonderful to make connections with another rehab person! Good luck with your blog site – it’s a little work to set up but sharing stories and writing is a real passion, and WordPress makes it fairly simple. I’m anxious to head over and read all about you!

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  12. Some time has passed since you wrote this, and by now the weather may have moderated for you a little. I had wondered about hunting season; it’s good that you waited until after that to begin the release process. The photo of Tukker looking back at you seems to capture it all: the bonds that exist, the excitement of a new stage of life, and a little hesitancy to go with it. It’s just like so many photos of children’s first days of school. They want to go, and we want them to go, but that doesn’t make it any easier. I would think that the emotional toll of rehabbing and releasing would equal the financial and time costs of the endeavor. You’re clearly suited for it, though, and it’s wonderful to think of all the deer who’ve profited by your commitment.

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    1. Thank you, Linda. You described the entire experience perfectly. The emotional strain is present from the time I make the decision to take on a fawn, and it never really goes away. I still think of Daisy, Ronnie and Emma, and many of the local wild deer I’ve come to know, and I wonder about them – where are they and how they’ve fared. I am thankful for so many days of hiking alonside Tukker and observing his activity at night via game cameras. It seems there is always much to learn, so that we can better raise the next fawn that comes our way. I really ought to look over my reports (required by the state) to see how much time and expense it is to raise just one fawn. I know most large rehab facilities have no reports regarding survival after release at three months of age. Various states show high fawn loss in the wild due to predation of fawns under he ages of four months. That is one reason we wait until after hunting season. You’ve inspired me to do a blog post on the financial and time commitment aspect of fawn rehabilitation! I’m curious to see the results!

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