Young Buck?

The crescent moon cast a vertical smile over the southwest corner of a little hayfield where a doe and her fawn had been showing up often on summer eves. I had seen them many times in my nightly travels, consistently entering the field around dusk, behind the cover of a razor-thin hardwood stand some 30 yards from the forest’s edge. Why, I wondered many times, had that thin-faced, big-eared doe borne just one fawn; would have thought she’d has twins.

Indeed, on this cool, dry, pleasant evening, there she was, nervous tail, feeding in the fading light under that crescent moon, fawn standing erect 10 yards to her left, blending into the cover of a wild apple tree and the high brush beneath it. Then, to my astonishment, there was the twin I had fruitlessly searched for dozens of times before.

Also standing erect, on full alert to the sound of the oncoming vehicle, behind its mother and to her right, the twin looked like a statue, tail slightly curled under. The furtive one had obviously been there many times before, never once detected by these aging eyes.

It reminded me of that late afternoon about nine years ago when I was on stand not far away watching a well-worn run on the other side of a shallow ravine, back resting against a large red side-hill pine. I detected movement, focused my attention and, sure enough, whitetails, three of them, slowly feeding their way through the woods toward the mowing. As they made their way closer to me, I knew I was observing a doe and her fawns. The young ones were being led down that run by their mother, who would communicate with them by a flick of her tail, a curl of her ears and subtle sounds inaudible to me from 30 yards away.

The closest animal to me, a 70-pound fawn, maybe a button buck, was not as compliant as its twin. Feeding on low browse along the forest floor, it kept wandering down toward the base of the ravine, and the mother was not happy. You could just read the body language. Sensing danger, the mother wanted the disobedient one closer to her and its sibling. The little one wanted to explore. Little did it know that mother knew best.

Well, all three of those animals lived to see another sunrise, but the wayward one could have met its maker. What saved it was the fact that the hunter wasn’t interested in taking any of them.

Judging from what I’ve observed over the past three months, that fawn I’ve seen several times will be the wayward one this fall; its twin will be the cautious one. At least that’s the way I see it — probably a bull-headed young buck and his teacher’s-pet sister.

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