Walkabout Scout

In the days and weeks after taking in an orphaned fawn, we always enjoy watching their personalities evolve. The eldest of our little trio this year, Scout, has shown us her staunch independence, reliance on instinct, and physical strength. She’s highly alert and is often the first to flee into the safety of tall grasses in the back of the deer pen when danger, (a delivery truck or a stray dog) comes on the property. She is also a fast and hard runner. In the cool of the mornings, I often observe her head down and running with purpose. Back and forth she speeds in the pen, stopping on a dime and pivoting to race just as fast as she can to the other end and back. Gracie and Ruthie seem more to be practicing their running, leaping, and jumping skills. They appear to enjoy the sport, but for Scout it seems to be much more serious business.

Scout’s instinct to blindly bolt at the slightest strange movement or sound, started in the house when she was just a few weeks old. While running through the house one morning with Gracie and our small Japanese Chin, Oscar and Lollipop, she crashed into a pet gate and got her head stuck between the vertical metal bars. Forrest quickly pried her head loose, and we removed the gate immediately. The dog gate had never been an issue with fawns in the past, but since the dogs were both house trained by now, it wasn’t necessary to keep the gate up anymore, and was obviously not safe for Scout. As a result of the crash, poor Scout was left with a few scrapes and a mild concussion. By the next week, we felt it was necessary to get Scout into a larger play area, so we moved her and Gracie to the deer pen. This would be the earliest we had moved fawns from the house to the deer pen.

Scout and Gracie are checking out their new quarters in the barn. The metal mesh screening on the door allows air flow and a visual to the outdoors.

During the first couple of weeks in the deer pen, we generally close the small barn door at night to keep the tiny fawns safe from any would-be predators, and to give the deer a comfortable place to bed down in deep straw at night, and in which to feed them in the mornings before letting them out in the pen. The barn door is covered in mesh fencing for air flow and visibility. This shelter had always been a safe haven for our orphaned deer. But Scout once again proved to us that it was not her kind of shelter!

The first thunderstorm to hit after we moved Scout and Gracie to the barn, brought forty minutes of pea-sized hail overnight. The next morning, we found a beat up Scout with patches of hair missing on her head and neck, and cuts around her eyes. She had evidently tried to run through the screen of the little barn door to escape the noise. Her strong flight instinct caused her to attempt to blindly flee the bumps in the night caused by the hail. Gracie on the other hand, was calm and had nestled down in the straw, unharmed. This time, the gate didn’t come down, but it did get vertical wooden slats added, to hopefully create a visual deterrent to Scout if she attempted to jump through the screening again.

The next morning Scout acted as if nothing had happened. She was hungry, as usual!
Gracie was good to lick Scout’s wounds after the hail incident.
Each day after the hail incident, brought healing for Scout’s scars.

Recently, our neighbor to the north was having some carpentry work done on his house. We could not see much about what was going on by looking across his backyard, as it has become heavily wooded over the years, so Forrest ventured out towards the street where he could see into our neighbor’s front yard to try and discover just what was going on. He did notice a fella wearing some kind of white, hooded suit over there and thought that was odd. But then, in his peripheral vision, he saw a fawn jump the neighbor’s fence near the street and watched it run off to the north and dive into the brush about a half of a block down. His first thought that it was one of the local wild deer, who often get snoopy and venture up out of the woods. On his way back to our house, he stopped at the deer pen, to find only Gracie and Ruthie. It was Scout who had jumped the property fence and headed down the street! Somehow she had managed to leap over the six-foot deer pen fence!

After realizing the fawn he had seen was Scout, Forrest took off for the street and walked into the brushy area where he’d seen the fawn disappear. I took the path to the woods down below the slope, and headed north towards the slough. I called Scout’s name and did the “mama” call, which is a little buzz noise deer mother’s make to call their fawns. It wasn’t long before I saw Forrest, with a nervous Scout following him close behind. Fortunately, it was not difficult to get her back in the pen. She seemed glad to see Gracie and Ruthie. But it took quite a while for her breathing to return to normal, and more than an hour to stop her from pacing and acting nervous. We sat with the deer during that time to help Scout settle down, just like a mother would do in the wild.

Scout follows Forrest through the woods and back to our home.
Scout’s injury from running in the woods, after her first jump over the pen fence!
Scout (foreground) pants after her jaunt in the woods, while Forrest gives Gracie and Ruthie a little attention.
Scout was glad to be back in the pen with Gracie and Ruthie after her first escape from the deer pen.

I was relieved when Scout stayed put the next couple of weeks. We often wondered if the man in the white suit spooked her, or maybe the noise of saws and hammering scared her. But then yesterday as I was gathering tree branches for leaf eating and other good eats for the girls, I saw a fawn dart across the driveway, looking panicked! It was Scout. Again, it was easy to get her back in the pen because she wanted in. Holding Gracie and Ruthie back while trying to open the gate was the difficult part. Luckily, I managed it.

I find myself checking on the girls more now. There isn’t anything we can do at this point to keep Scout from jumping the fence. I’ll look for her of course, should she jump the fence again, but I also understand the need to walkabout and flee, whether from fright or just to explore. Following instinct is always the right choice.

I shot this photo from our metal building thinking this was a wild fawn. There was no time for any additional out-of-pen photos when I realized it was Scout!!
Scout (center) happily nibbles on cat brier, after her latest escape. Gracie (left) and Ruthie (right) seem happy to have their sister back home.

© 2020 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…


15 thoughts on “Walkabout Scout

  1. Oh, my, having Scout is a bit like having a teenager! They want to sew some wild oats but when it doesn’t go well, come back home again! What an interesting story, Lori. They are such gorgeous little souls and you are such a good Mom! xx

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    1. Aw, thanks, Ardys. Scout certainly has a mind of her own! Gracie has become quite aggressive. I generally pick up deer scat twice a day, and I have to watch her closely. She likes to come hoofing at me and especially tries to take a bite from the poop bag! I just leave the pen when she’s wild like that. I hope that doesn’t become a problem as she grows! Ruthie is so sweet. She’s all about the food!! Ha ha!

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  2. It’s fascinating to read about the different personalities of these three. I had to smile at Scout’s tendency to escape. We could have used her as a tutor for a certain young deer in Kerrville who never could figure out how to jump a fence. Every time he came with his herd to a neighbor’s place, the rest would wander, look, drink, and go, and that poor deer would pace back and forth until he figure out how to get around the end of the fencing. I suppose even in the wild there are some who learn a little more slowly than others!

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    1. Oh, Linda that was exactly how Tukker was! We thought he’d never jump a fence. He just bolted right through barbed-wire fences, scarring his back up. I guess he finally figured it out. There are always late bloomers out there. But we had no idea a fawn would clear a six-foot fence!

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    1. Those ears are amazing! The vascular structure is beautiful and that aspect of the ears is seen best backlit in the morning sun. I understand their hearing is exceptional. Those ears never stay in one place very long. A deer is constantly moving and rotating their ears non-stop. The windier it is outside the more those ears are working, twisting, and twitching. And they are very important in communication as well. We see a lot of notched and split ears in the wild. I always wonder how that kind of injury can happen.

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  3. For a small deer, Scout is awfully athletic. Really quickly resets to instinctive moves when spooked. Probably will serve her well in the wild. I was very glad she returned with her favorite person…not that mom isn’t great, but, there’s something about the guy? So many lessons they have to teach us about living wild – lessons humans have forgotten.
    But seriously Scout, hang around where it’s safe while you grow a bit

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    1. I couldn’t agree more – Scout needs to stick to the pen where she has protection. Coyotes are always a threat here. But, I am thankful that Scout’s instinct is spot on, and I’m not sure what the lesson is with her escapes… do we need to go another two feet high with pen fencing? Do we need to change the shape of the pen for less space to get a running leap to clear the fence? We just didn’t know this could happen with a fawn!

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      1. If you go higher isn’t there a risk she’d jump out of previous experience and crash into it…maybe with streamers along it.
        We even have coyotes in the neighborhood here. Little ones need to stay where they are safe – the world is bigger and more dangerous than you know – and mom can’t run beside and hoof if necessary!

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  4. Just like raising kids…I guess never having had kids. Scout is a challenge but her ability to run with determination and strength will serve her well in the wild. Just like people they each do have their own personality which most of us don’t get to see.

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    1. I didn’t have kids either, Steve, but we were kids once and we know that we all are different with various skills. Scout has shown us that fawns are capable of much more than we realized. We’ve all ventured out and gotten ourselves in situations where we were not so secure, and I have to believe that if Scout escapes when we are not around to help her back in the pen, that she will figure out how to manage on her own. All of our fawns have camped out in the immediate area for months after release – sometimes years. But, if she should jump out again, and we don’t find her nearby, I am quite sure we’ll be out there in the woods looking and calling. It is impossible to think we have any control over her wild nature.

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  5. How wonderfully their personalities and behaviours differ… but 3 together must take quite some managing. I had a thought about the man in the white suit… in a building context they are often required for asbestos handling, or dangerous substance application.

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    1. Dale, you might be spot on about the asbestos handling – most homes in this area had some application of that. And, it was the roof that was being worked on at our neighbor’s house, so it’s quite possible. Deer have such keen vision and movement of even the tiniest insect can put them on high alert! Why Scout escaped the second time is an unknown. I will just have to check on the girls more often and hope that if it happens again, we’re around to help her get back in with her sisters. I have to trust that she is skilled enough with instinct to survive life in this area should she take off on her own.

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  6. Scout reminds me of myself and my HSP trait. I think maybe we’ve talked about this before? Briefly, HSP stands for “highly-sensitve person,” and the term was coined by psychiatrist Dr. Elaine Aron in her book of the same title about 25 years ago. Not only does this trait apply to 15-20% of the human population, but also to many animals. We HSPs are easily startled and overstimulated, and Scout’s behavior feels so much like my own. I don’t jump fences, but I do have a sometimes desperate need to escape an overwhelming situation. (If interested, you can read more about the HSP trait on Dr. Aron’s website, https://hsperson.com.)

    One of my cats seems to be much like an HSP — from the day I adopted him five years ago, I’ve rarely seen Sam sitting calmly without a nervously-twitching tail. Even when he’s sleeping, that tail is twitching. He gets stressed easily and sometimes acts out when he’s overstimulated. He’s difficult to deal with, but I try to remember that he’s just doing the best he can, just like me. 🙂

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    1. Hi Kim, and yes I remember the discussion about HSP. Most prey wildlife instinctively reacts to danger, but I think some are more prone to take flight. I always wondered if having our deer penned for so long might make them a little too comfortable at release, but the opposite has been true. The deer seem to be on high alert and very wary as we walk them around. Scout was curious I’m sure, but she was also very glad to see Forrest that day and she was ready to be with her sisters the day I found her outside of the pen. I don’t know why she does what she does – I’m just glad we are around so much that we can keep an eye on things!

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