Preparing for hunting season takes a lot of work. It was a get-ready weekend at the hunt camp in Liberty County, Florida. My job was to make the old camper trailer livable – clean it, de-cobweb it, and air it out. Kenny’s job was to take care of the “man” chores -- mow the grass and spruce up the dog pens. And most importantly, kill anything that slithered when I screamed! Max, our beagle dog, had a job too.
Max was on a hunting mission. However, it was unbeknownst to us. Busy with our tasks, we would occasionally hear the “woof, woof” of Max as he frolicked in the forest. We were able to keep up with where he was by his distant barking.
“Woof, woof,” barked Max.
“Sounds like he’s headed for the boat landing,” said Kenny.
Then there was silence for several minutes until again the “woof, woof, woof” echoed through the pine trees.
“Now he’s back over by Ken Ray’s camp,” reported Kenny. “He’ll get tired and be back soon.”
I poked my head out the trailer and listened as Max circled and barked as he ran around the camp site. Max was unusually frisky that hot August day. Soon I heard the pitch of the “woof, woof, woof” get higher. The barking got faster. Max ran in tight circles in the woods behind Ms. Dolly’s old farm house. It didn’t seem to me that he was getting tired at all. He was just getting wound up!
“He’s on to something,” said Kenny, as he walked toward the yapping.
I ran out the trailer and followed him. Mixed in with the “woof, woof, woof,” we heard an unusual screeching/bleating sound.
“Is that a hawk or something?” I asked.
“Don’t know what it is,” answered Kenny, “that doesn’t sound like any hawk I’ve ever heard.”
We walked deeper into the palmettos and pines toward the commotion. A dense thicket separated us from Max’s now stronger, more urgent bark.” Then came another screech/bleat!
“He’s got something!” exclaimed Kenny, as he dove into the thicket.
I followed as closely and quickly as my short, little legs would allow. As usual I tripped over the briars, palmettos, and other forest stuff. I lost sight of Kenny in the woodsy maze, but continued toward the frantic “woof, woof, woof” ahead. Then things got eerily quite. The dense thicket blocked my view of everything. I stopped not knowing which way to go. Suddenly, the bushes rustled and I heard twigs crack. Thump, thump, my heart pounded. Was it Kenny coming towards me? Was it Max? Heaven forbid, was it a big black bear!? I turned to make my get-away, then a familiar voice stopped me in my tracks.
“Brenda, are you there?” asked Kenny.
“Oh, thank God it’s you,” I signed with relief.
To my amazement, through the thicket came Kenny cradling a precious baby deer in his arms with Max whimpering and nipping at his heels!
“When I got to them,” explained Kenny, “Max was sitting down with the deer between his paws. I reached to pick her up, and Max grabbed her in his mouth and started running away! I chased after them. Max stopped, and then when I got close, he took off again. After I caught him, we struggled for the baby deer. He tugged. Then I grabbed a hold of Max, not wanting to harm the deer. Max opened his jaws and the baby deer jumped out running. I chased the deer. Max chased me. I made a nose dive and grabbed the deer before she scampered under a palmetto bush.”
We headed back to camp. Kenny wiped his sweaty brow with a briar-scratched hand while gently holding the tired and exhausted baby deer in his other hand. Max happily followed along, wagging his tail, apparently very pleased with himself.
After we got back to camp, we set up a make-shift ER. I grabbed paper towels, first-aid kit, and water. Kenny cleaned up the baby deer and examined her for injuries. Finding only one concerning scratch, he carefully applied an antibiotic and gave her a drink of water. That’s right – “her.” Silly Max, his first deer was a doe – not a buck!
We placed the trembling baby doe in the bed of the truck in hopes that she would calm down from the excitement and the heat. Meanwhile, we sat down for a glass of iced tea to calm us down. A little while later, we heard the patter of little hoofs as the baby deer walked around inside the truck bed. It looked like she was going to be fine.
After taking pictures, we proceeded to return the baby doe to her home in the forest. This proved to be somewhat difficult. Kenny placed her on the ground and we turned to leave. We got about 10 feet away when the baby doe jumped up and began to follow us! We stopped. She stopped. We started again. She started following us again – just like a little puppy dog would do.
We stopped again and Kenny suggested that I continue down the trail and maybe she would stay with him. She ran after me but then stopped halfway between us. At this point we’re trying to figure out what to do so she won’t follow us. The baby doe finally made her decision for us. She left the trail, walked under a bush, and laid down.
Kenny told me to head for camp and that he would stay with the baby deer until he felt sure that she would stay under the bush. Soon he slipped back to camp too, leaving the baby deer to wait for her mother’s return.
A few weeks later, we saw the baby doe and her Mom as we drove down the two-rut lane headed for camp. I think Max recognized his first deer catch too as he poked his head out the truck window. He barked loudly and proudly wagged his tail!
Epilogue -- A few months later, we saw the baby doe again on the same shady lane. This time she was a little taller. We knew it was “our” baby doe because we recognized a dark spot on her shoulder. We named her “Speckles” because of the ivory white baby deer spots dotted across her warm brown coat. We continued to watch her grow over the months.
Until next time………………Brenda