Close Encounters

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… which this wasn’t.

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I took these pictures through a not-quite-clean double-pane picture window. The deer was feeding on leaves of what looked like vines.

 The young deer reminded me of a close encounter many years ago. I was hiking at a limestone barrens on Shawnee National Forest land. A light brown shape caught my attention. Why would anyone leave a lunch sack in the barrens. I went to retrieve it … it was a very young fawn. It remained motionless while I did a rapid sketch of it. Then I left.

Then I thought, “I bet the mother was just inside the woods, watching me.

That memory quickly took me to one of another close encounter. I returned to camp on rural property I own. Four or five biggish young birds were hunkered down in the mowed grass  near the pull-in. I did a gesture drawing, all the time asking them aloud, “What are you?”

Then I heard movement to the left and behind me. A hen turkey was sneaking toward the taller grasses where we didn’t mow. She had been feet from me. I didn’t see her because I’d locked in on the young birds. Obviously, she didn’t perceive me as a threat. Needless to say I decided it was time to leave and walked causally to the truck.

I wrote and illustrated nature articles for several local newspapers for almost 10 years. Obviously, this kept me hiking and camping a lot. Wildlife didn’t notice me when I was in deep concentration. One time I sat on the ground, drawing mosses. I heard movement and here came a coyote trotting down the short hill toward me. It saw me when about 12-15 feet away, “turned the corner” and kept on trotting.


Another memory just came to me, one that left me shaking.

I hadn’t seen my first wild turkey yet and knew they were feeding up the hill from camp at my rural property. I suited up in camouflage, sat at the base of a tree with my 35 mm camera in my lap. No turkey. I dosed off. Wind rustling the trees woke me, only the leaves weren’t blowing. To my left — here came a 4-foot kingsnake. Somehow, I grabbed my camera and quickly made it to a standing position. My movement stopped the snake’s movement 5-6 feet from me. My hands shook too much to take a picture, besides, I wanted more distance between us. I stepped back several steps and watched it. Finally, it started moving in the same north east direction. It stopped when it came to the warmer ground where I’d been sitting.

It would’ve gone — or at least started– across my lap if I’d been asleep.


All this from watching a young deer in the backyard.

13 responses to this post.

  1. I like these pictures, especially the second one! I think your double-pane window add a very nice effect, it makes the picture look a bit dreamy.. like a painting in a children’s book. 🙂


  2. It’s always fun to see wildlife, but I could do without poisonous snakes. We have timber rattlesnakes here but they are so rare that nobody has seen one in many many years.


  3. Nothing stops my heart faster than hearing the rattle of a rattlesnake, especialy when I’m miles from the nearest help. One thing I keep in my photo vest is a snakebite kit, just in case. I almost hit a herd of deer a couple of nights ago in Virginia, 3 bucks and 6-7 does ran right in front of my truck at night, I almost pooped myself..;-)


    • I used to wear snake boots when hiking at my property. I did get rattled at once and couldn’t find the snake. We have our last deer season this weekend, so the deer will be more active. If I remember right, you like fossils. If you ever go through Indiana on interstate 64 and stop at mile marker 86 for fossils. All 4 corners have fossils. the nw side is tall, long, terraced and has fossils. It is an amazing place. Any questions, let me know.


      • So its a big outcropping right by the on and off ramps? I’ll make a note on that, I carry a pick my dad gave me in my truck for just that ..:-)

      • I highly recommend it. There’s a rare trilobite that people come from across the country to hunt for. There’s dermal denticals – shark armor. They eluded me. It is a BIg outcrop on the one corner. Keith said a lot of shark teeth. I haven’t hunted in many years. They actually have a big parking area for visitors. I rarely saw anyone there.

      • How could I forget? Kansas!!! If you’re on Interstate 70 the road cuts have unbelievable fossils. There’s many kinds of shark teeth and lots more! If I remember right, we hunted road cuts more toward the middle of the state on on west. When in doubt, check.

  4. Yikes! Glad you were safe each time. I love nature but I don’t want to tangle with it!


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