The moment was awkward … at least for the deer.
I was walking through my family’s property on the Kaskaskia River last week, armed with only a camera. Forest birds were my intended quarry.
To be honest, the birds, particularly brown creepers, were quite cooperative. I got a couple dozen frames of the reclusive little guys scurrying up the sides of trees. Chickadees and white-breasted nuthatch were equally photogenic.
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While heading back toward the car about an hour before sunset I picked up a crashing sound in the woods. Initially, it sounded like a couple squirrels chasing each other across the leaf-strewn forest floor, but it persisted.
Staring in the direction of the sound I spotted a spike buck running toward me. He was bounding through the woods without a care in his mind. Despite the many deer stands, apparently he didn’t realize it was bow season.
I froze in my tracks with the buck about 40 yards away. It was just a matter of time before he spotted me or got a whiff of my presence. Well aware of the camera in hand, I wanted to play this for all it was worth,
My expectations were simple. I figured he’d spot me. He’s stop in his tracks, stare momentarily, get a panicked look on his face and bolt away embarrassed and knowing he was lucky it was me, not any of my cousins he encountered.
That’s not the way it played out. Not even remotely.
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The deer continued in my direction, totally oblivious to my presence. He maintained his brisk pace until reaching the narrow four-wheeler path that runs parallel to the Kaskaskia River. It was only when the deer reached the path did he realize he wasn’t alone.
The young buck stopped dead center in the path – with sunlight pouring over his face nonetheless. Looking up the trail, he stared intently at me. You could almost hear the machinations of his brain, “Uh-oh. I screwed up big time. How am I going to get out of this one?”
Although the deer was clearly aware something was amiss, it wasn’t really panic that was evident on his face. It was more like confusion.
Slowly, I raised the camera to my face, still unconvinced I’d get a photo. I focused the camera, the deer still didn’t bat an eyelash. Several frames clicked off before the deer became even remotely concerned by the sound of the shutter closing.
Finally, the young buck realized he was tempting fate and bolted off through the woods.
He leapt over a couple of bushes, stopped about 30 yards away. The deer turned back and snorted loudly a couple times before disappearing deeper in the bush.
If the deer dropped to his knees and hyperventilated, I wouldn’t blame him. He tempted fate and got away with it --- this time.
If he doesn’t get any smarter, he’ll end up in someone’s freezer.
LES WINKELER is the outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 618-351-5088 / On Twitter @LesWinkeler.