Uttleystrails.com, Wildlife Stories

The Lucky Doe Story

Photo #449 (below) This older mule deer doe is a survivor of rough adventures.  She's been shot through her face by a hunting rifle,  a large chunk of flesh has been almost ripped out of her face, perhaps by a bear or cougar, but somehow it grew back into place.  Wolves or another animal chewed on her and left the scars of canine teeth all over her head.  Her right eye was bitten and crushed leaving it accordion shaped, resulting in that eye displaying four catch lights instead of one.  In spite of it all, she healed and survived to a ripe old age in her Rocky Mountain valley.  Having spent a few weeks there, we got to know each other.  She looks like a Suzie, so I named her Suzie and spent three days photographing her. 





Looking at her left cheek between the eye and nose, you can see the large bullet exit hole.  The piece of cheek that was almost bitten out must have been painful after it happened.  


The natural slit that extends downward from Suzie's eyes is a natural scent gland that leaves her scent on trees and plants as she feeds.  That scent tells other deer that Suzie’s been here.  By the same means, Suzie can tell if and which of her mule deer friends have been in the area lately, and the scent they leave behind helps Suzie locate them when she wishes to visit. 


Does like to hang out and visit and yak just like people type mothers do in their neighbourhood.  During these visits the doe's kids, I mean fawns, meet each other and learn to play and gain an understanding of deer customs and behavior.  That accomplished, the next generation of deer adults will be armed with sufficient knowledge to rapidly ostracize any deer attempting to spread the teachings of Doctor Benjamin Spock, thereby saving their society from the social degredation that humanity now suffers. 


In Photo # 142 (below) we see the left side of Suzie’s face and that large bullet exit wound from another angle.  You have to guess that some amount of bone on possibly both sides of her upper jaw may have been destroyed by the bullet, along with some number of teeth.  It seems a miracle she could have bitten off, chewed, and swallowed sufficient amounts of food to survive long enough for the bullet wound healing process to be completed.  It’s another miracle that viral, bacterial or insect infestation didn’t kill her during the wound healing process.  It seems an even further miracle the scent of that wound didn’t attract every hungry mountain lion and Black or Grizzly Bear in British Columbia.  Perhaps it did.

Lucky Doe image - 142 

Another look at Photo # 142, just in front of Suzie’s eye and above the bullet exit wound, you see another view of that large patch of cheek that was mostly ripped off and somehow grew back in place, sort of...   Again you can see those canine tooth punctures all around Suzie’s head and ears. 


Looking at Suzie in Photo # 450 (below), you can see least some damage to the eyeball, which is considerably misshaped and is very much out of round in a number of ways.  It's far more impressive to see in the 16 x 20 or 24 x 30 inch prints. 


Sometimes it just feels like there are horse shoes landing all around me.  Who else gets to make attractive portraits of a pretty lady with big soft eyes, one of them having four catch lights.  When I look at Suzie’s face in the Photos, especially # 450 below, I envision Leonardo painting the Mona Lisa sometime after she had been standing a little bit too close to the impact point of a 60 mm mortar round.  I think Leonardo would have been amused by that thought, after all, not only was he a gifted artist, he was also a tough and gifted engineer who spent the greater part of his life designing often large and futuristic weapons of war for different Emperors and Wanna-Be Emperors, and more often for a Wanna-Remain-Emperor.  


Somehow Suzie still has some usable amount of vision in the damaged right eye.  I positioned myself to her extreme right several times to see if she could track me with the right eye only, and she showed no sign of inability.  Hard to imagine what Suzie’s sight picture must look like through that accordion shaped lens.  I wonder if she still dreams of the events that caused her injuries, or if she’s past those dreams, and only works on new ones, or do the bad dreams come back now and again?  Yup, these animals dream just like you and your dog.  


Suzie wasn’t a box of Corn Flakes and she had no desire to feed the bears.  She was a Black Tailed Mule Deer, mother to previous fawns, and like most wild animals, She was a proud world class champion athlete, and no predator was putting her down if she could fight her way out.  We can see it’s working for her…. .  So that's enough about Suzie being shot and bitten and rumbled and chewed...   When it's done you go for lunch and if you are sleepy after that, then find a nice place to nap.  It's the way of the woods.  You don't get to lay on a couch and whine out here.  


As said, Suzie and I got to know each other, and she became familiar with my appearance, scent, the sound of my breathing and walking, and some of my behavioral characteristics and mannerisms.  She could read my body language and eye movements.  We now know each other as individuals and well enough to be in a first name relationship.  So what’s her name for …me?  Animals don’t have verbal names for people, or other animals, or things, or food plants, so how does a deer identify one friend from another?  Well that's easy enough, using Nose Pictures as described in the "Joe The Dog story".  You may wish to read that later.




It takes a lot of luck to find a distinctively different deer or other animal face as unique and as attractive as Suzie's.  Once found, such a face had to be photographed up close and properly.  If not, the Universal Powers would have deemed me as ungratefull, or unworthy, or as being defective, and they would have vented their wrath by floating my hulk over Helmcken Falls.  I didn't know that at the time, but fortunately I did the right thing.  Lucky, that was all that prevented ...you know...them, from doing the Helmcken waterfall thing to me.  


I’m pleased she let me photograph her that close, numerous times, with the RB 6x7.  It's a pretty noisy machine for an animal to tolerate very often.  When I'm close to an animal I have to get them accustomed to the sound of the mirror release noise by clicking it a number of times while pretending to be eating it, or something like that.  When they are accustomed to the sound, I can point the RB6x7 at them and press the shutter.  After each picture their reaction to the sound must be noted to avoid having them panic.  It's just a matter of observation, patience and practice.  After each photograph you have to make them forget the mirror sound by letting them see you roll the camera around in your hands while pretending to eat it again, thus showing the camera is not dangerous.  It's all so crazy, but that's how I'm able to pass her story with pictures on to you.


Spending long times with deer ............................


When you are in the woods, and you step on a wildflower, or two, the other tourists might express a desire to hurt you, it’s the way of people who care.  Perhaps sixty per cent of the deer’s diet are those beautiful flowering plants, be they common, not so common, or rare, and now and again, the odd mouse for protein.  Wolf eats deer and mouse, Deer and bunnies eat wildflowers, it’s the way of the woods.


My two little girls were two and a half and four years old, and it was time for them to see Walt Disney’s “Bambi”.  I set them down in the living room, started the tape, and they were mesmerized from the beginning.  The movie had it all.  The little color enhanced singing butterflies, the little color enhanced singing wildflowers with the happy little faces, the little color enhanced singing blue birds.  The kids were hooked and Bambie wasn't even born yet!  Confident they were going to have the time of their little lives, I went to the basement to putter.  In time, the sound of two little girls coming down the basement stairs, crying, crying, crying. They were unable to kick out anything more than a few broken syllables, but I put it together:  Lord A’mighty:  The bad hunter shot Bamby’s Mom!  Seems the sad part of the movie was considerably long, considering the age of the intended viewers.


So, if you wouldn't mind Walt, how about stopping by the house in a few minutes or sooner, with your color enhanced singing wildflowers and butterflies to help Dad to repair the day..... Well !?





Decorative photographs of the Lucky Doe can be found in the "Deer" menu.