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One of the absolute delights of this time of year in wild northwestern Wisconsin is the annual search for the first whitetail deer fawns of the season. They can be hard to find.

The little ones, you see, come into this world with a natural instinct and talent for hiding.

Almost perfectly camouflaged, they blend into their forest landscape, almost seeming to melt into the shadows, the underbrush and the trees.

You would think that those bright white spots on the new orange body would be a dead giveaway, but that is not the case. You can darned near step on the tiny creatures and still not see them.

One reason for this is their natural instinct to remain perfectly still, freezing in place when they feel they have been — or may be — spotted.

Without much scent when first born, this is a defense against hungry coyotes, wolves, bobcats, bears and whatever else might have a taste for whitetail hors devours. Predators take a terrible toll on the little spotted babies each year.

Last week I set out early, just after sunrise, specifically searching for a fawn. I had not seen one yet, and I really wanted my first sighting.

My camera ready, I set out, slowly driving remote back roads and scanning the underbrush for any sign of movement.

There was no shortage of deer to be found as the orange glow of the early morning sun melted over the landscape. They seemed to be out in good supply, dashing here and there to the point at which driving was almost a little concerning. Time to slow down even more.

Rounding a lake so still it looked like it was frozen, I could even see an albino doe moving along the shoreline, her reflection almost glowing in the dark water.

Sometimes when you search for one thing in nature, you get the bonus of spotting something equally special.

But an hour out, no fawns had yet been spotted.

About 10 minutes later I caught the silhouette of a deer on the road ahead of me. As I got closer, the doe just stood there in the middle of the road.

I slowed to a crawl, and she still stood there. Then she looked back behind her to a hill above the road ditch. She looked at me, then looked behind her once again, and it struck me that she looked nervous.

I rejoiced! I had seen that behavior many times before, and it usually meant that the doe had a fawn trailing behind her. It’s body language that I started looking for whenever I come upon a doe this time of year.


Almost reluctantly, it seemed, she proceeded to the other side of the road. But instead of moving into the forest, she stopped, once more looking to the top of the hill.

I stopped also. She had just confirmed my suspicion that she had a fawn. As good at hiding as the little ones are, their presence is often given away by their moms.

I came to a stop and started scanning the small hill above the ditch. And there she was.

Making her way down what looked to be a pretty well-used game trail, a tiny fawn was working at catching up to her mom.

I was close enough to see that she was still wet, her coat dark, highlighted by brilliantly displayed, perfect white spots. Her wet coat shined in the rising morning sun.

She had just been born a short time ago. Her steps were unsure, her new legs wobbly as she figured out how to walk. This might have been the very first hill she had even encountered.

I lifted up the camera and began snapping. She spotted me and froze. And I mean froze solid! In the middle of a step she became motionless and while not lying down, got close to the ground.

Mom took a couple of steps back toward the road as the little lady remained still. Finally she stood up and moved back to the brush, breaking into a quick step as she disappeared – she was learning to run!

It was time to move on. I had gotten a few photos, and there was no need to frighten her or make mom more nervous.

The morning had been a success. I’d been blessed to see a new fawn, and witness Mother Nature at her best. Have a good life, little one!

Bill Thornley is a writer for the Spooner Advocate.

This article originally ran on apg-wi.com.


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