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The Morning Stalk

Sunday, November 19, 2017

You never know when you're going to have an extraordinary day. I've learned to watch out for the weepy gray days, the ones trying so hard to be ordinary, to pass without notice. November 17, 2017, was just such a day.

While doing my morning wildlife feeding, I noticed a big dark doe walking, all the way out the meadow. Most people say, "Oh, it's only a doe," as if a doe were somehow less a deer than a buck, but I like does. It's like Patton Oswalt said long ago: "I like porn. Because I can GET porn."

Does are easier to see and far easier to stalk; does are easier to identify from year to year, as they aren't always changing their headgear and going through wild hormonal changes. So I threw on a coat and my boots and headed out to stalk this intriguing animal. 

The first thing I noticed about her was large size. Then, her deep blue color, and her beautifully straight topline. Hmm. 

And then I picked up the brilliant white stockings down the back of her front legs. 

She stopped and stood, rooted, staring back at me, and she was so beautiful I thought she might have to be Jolene. Jolene! Is it you? I couldn't remember if Jolene had a red tail, tipped in black. All these little things matter, all these things remain constant year to year, and I add them up to figure out who is who. 

But I don't waste any time looking at my photos when I'm stalking deer. I'm too busy getting those photos and keeping a low profile. I am happy to figure out who I've got after I upload them, when I can closely study and compare the current photos with my library of photos of known individuals. I hadn't seen Jolene since May, and she was heavily pregnant then. 

As luck and the rut would have it, this doe was not alone for long. Out of the woods to the west came a very large buck!

I immediately dropped behind the tall goldenrod, thankful that my part of the meadow hadn't been mowed.  I dared a few shots, rising up just enough to get the lens on him, then sinking back down. 
From his point of view, there was something small, odd and dark popping up and down in the frost- bleached goldenrod, and he wasn't sure what it was. 

I crawled, holding my camera under my belly, getting closer and staying in cover. I peeped up. The buck was still there, still looking at the spot where he last saw me. 

I stayed down. I wanted him to forget about me and think about sex. Finally he turned and continued parading slowly toward the doe. Fabulous! I took that opportunity to hunch-run a bunch closer, while his attention was diverted.

When his bone-white antlers pierced the darkness of the Virginia pines, I knew I had someone special. I couldn't help but notice his beautiful topline, and the white stockings down the backs of his front legs.

Does a buck follow his sister when they're all grown up? If she's in heat, does he know not to court her? Or is it hers to refuse and outrun him? These are things I wonder, and will likely never know. Surely they know each other by sight and smell, if they were raised together. 
Could poor crooked Ellen have been the outcome of a brother-sister tryst? 
So much to wonder. 

Look at his neck--swollen with muscle, built up by fighting saplings and other bucks. Look at the length of his tines. Eight points. A gorgeous gentleman.

When he turned, I could see a pretty good gouge on his right hind leg, doubtless from another buck's tine. He was moving well, though, keeping up appearances for the doe.

The doe had been watching me all along, and she was unnerved by how close I'd gotten. She rushed toward the buck and he broke into a run.  If you click on the photo you can see her motion ghost behind him. 

She was moving right along, outpacing him.

The eternal chase. You can see how heavy are his neck and forequarters compared to hers. He's ponderous by comparison.

It had been a magical encounter. I love little more than being out in a meadow with deer, having some cover to hide in while I watch them living their graceful, beautiful lives.

Next, we'll figure out who that doe was.


This afternoon - about 5:00 - I was in the kitchen with the light on as it was beginning to be dusk outside - and I glanced out the window to see a doe standing behind the house looking at me through the window. I know she was looking AT me. So I waved and she just stared for a bit longer. And then she turned and trotted down in the direction of the creek. I did grab a shot of her as she turned to go, of course!

Thank-you for taking us along on the stalk; it's ALWAYS worth the trip!

Very much enjoyed endng my day reading the account of your adventure. Everything else recedes to the background--just for an instant--when a deer (or a few) step into view. Many blessings, Julie Z.

I love the line 'weepy grey days, the ones trying so hard to be ordinary'. Sets the scene as I settled in to see what happened. Can't wait to see if we know them.

Hey Julie, I gave you a shout-out on my blog as well as on FB.

Waaaay cool!🦌📷

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