Each January, I always finding myself having bittersweet feelings about the end of archery deer season. On the negative side, I never seem to have hunted enough, taken the biggest buck in the woods or harvested as many does as I had planned on. On the positive side, however, I always find the season to have been very satisfying with lots of memories and some great meat in the freezer. As I put my bowhunting equipment away, I smile as I reach for my camera bag and equipment. As satisfying as an archery harvest is, I love to “harvest” wildlife with the camera as well. I actually find that the skills necessary to be successful in one of the endeavours applies to the other and the two hobbies complement each other quite nicely. As I head out with the camera in hand, I realize that it isn’t so bad that archery season is ten months away.

Recent winters in Indiana have been virtually non-existent with warm temperatures and minimal snow cover so food and warmth have been found in abundance. With the great conditions and minimal hunting pressure in my particular area, the deer population is exploding. In May, I was able to capture a photo from about twenty five feet away of a doe that appeared to be in the initial stages of labor. While she tolerated my presence for a while, eventually she waddled away toward more private surroundings and I left feeling very fulfilled for having had the experience. Of all of the young deer that I have seen later in the year, I have often wondered if any of them were her fawns.

June 12 turned out to be one of the best days I have ever spent in the woods. For many years it has been one of my goals to take a picture of a newborn whitetail fawn. I felt it had to be a close-up and the fawn had to be as close to newborn as possible. I almost didn’t see the woods on this particular day due to it being a very stressful, heavy workload day, a typical Monday in every aspect. By lunchtime I felt the stress of the job beginning to bury me so I decided to grab the camera and take a quick hike. Once in the woods, I decided that if I wanted to get that photo, I needed to get off the beaten deer trails and get to the thicker areas where the fawns might be laying. What a great decision that turned out to be. I slowly wandered through the cover trying to spot any brown spots on the forest floor that might be the elusive photo I had been waiting on. The May Apple plants were dying back and drying out so there were plenty of brown spotted false alarms. After walking for about 500 yards, I noticed yet another brown spot and looked closer to try to see the accompanying white spots but to no avail. As I started to move on, I had a feeling that I should look again, this time closer. Again I studied the spot but try as I might I couldn’t will the brown spot into a fawn. Once more I turned to leave but that nagging feeling returned. So for a third time I studied the brown patch and just as I was ready to turn away I noticed a brown ear flick. Talk about an adrenaline rush! I could hardly believe that I was so close to completing my quest. Very slowly, I eased over to the newborn, always watchful for a very mad protective mamma. Finally I was within three feet of the fawn and could hold my camera right over top of her to get some nice pictures. The whole time she was totally still except for her nose that was wriggling constantly trying to figure out if I was friend or foe. After getting a few photos I decided to head out before mamma came back with harmful intentions for me. I can still vividly remember my heart pounding and the amazement of finally getting the photo. I went back to work with all of the Monday work stress having evaporated into the forest air.

Two weeks later I was in the same patch of woods again scouting for fall when I suddenly felt that I was being watched. Having learned repeatedly over time that the feeling is usually correct, I stopped and surveyed the scene in front of me. Not seeing anything, I gave a quick look back over my shoulder and saw a very curious and healthy looking fawn that had come out of a thicket and trailed me for a while. I will never know if the two are the same, but it somehow seems too coincidental to not be. Thankfully, the fawn seemed to pose for a few good photos before retreating to the safety of the thicket.

As happy and thankful as I am for each and every archery harvest, the pictures on my wall of a newborn whitetail fawn will always be considered my favorite trophy. Not that I have checked off this accomplishment off my list, maybe I can get lucky and add a 180″ Indiana whitetail to my list of accomplishments!

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