A timid approach named curiosity

Upon a desolate road I sat, a dirt road stretching between nowhere and no place.  Beneath the simmering sun I cooled myself in the car as I watched and waited.  Not for anything in particular, mind you, but instead I waited for anything.  That’s when she arrived, a female white-tailed deer (a.k.a. whitetail deer; Odocoileus virginianus).

A female white-tailed deer (a.k.a. whitetail deer; Odocoileus virginianus) rounding a grassy hillock (2009_05_22_020070)

Behind the windshield’s sunscreen I hunkered, behind the dark window tint I hid, and from there I watched her as she approached, finally taking station in the shade of an Ashe juniper (a.k.a. post cedar, mountain cedar or blueberry juniper; Juniperus ashei).

A female white-tailed deer (a.k.a. whitetail deer; Odocoileus virginianus) standing in the shade of a tree (2009_05_22_020068)

Repeatedly she glanced at the car, its quiet motor humming, its occupant camouflaged from view, only brief movements of the camera lens visible.  But obviously the click of the dSLR’s shutter called to her, for each photo captured brought her gaze back to me, back to the car.

A female white-tailed deer (a.k.a. whitetail deer; Odocoileus virginianus) watching and listening closely (2009_05_22_020066)

Expecting her to flee the unknown, much to my surprise she turned and approached, timidly, slowly, carefully, yet always forward, always looking, always curious.

Close-up of a female white-tailed deer (a.k.a. whitetail deer; Odocoileus virginianus) as she looks at the camera (2009_05_22_020080_c)

Eventually near enough for me to toss a rock to her, she stopped and stared, so docile and inquisitive, so standoffish and peculiar.  How I stared, wondering about this odd behavior, wondering what behooved her to seek enlightenment rather than shelter.

Close-up of a female white-tailed deer (a.k.a. whitetail deer; Odocoileus virginianus) as she looks timid yet curious (2009_05_22_020077)

A step closer she came, still curious, but when the shutter sounded this time, her ears went back with surprise and worry, yet she remained probing and unmoving, almost meek and needful.  Finally I stopped photographing her, instead choosing to watch her, to watch this strange and timid approach named curiosity.

Never before or since have I known a wild deer to be so forgiving of human encroachment in the name of satisfying unadulterated interest.

2 thoughts on “A timid approach named curiosity”

  1. Nice images and commentary, Jason. My most interesting encounter with deer occurred over 20 years ago when I could still jog. I was running on a dark woodland trail on the night side of dusk when I realized, from small sounds behind me, that I was being followed. I turned around to look, but the trail was deserted. Resuming my run, I continued to hear noises and, determined to ascertain what was going on, I stopped and scanned the woods. There, I saw a pair of yearling deer standing 50 feet off the trail. When I started to run, didn’t they pick up and follow me again? It was the darnedest thing–so strange that I’m starting to wonder if I have the memory right.

  2. A beautiful account, Jason. I just hope that her curiosity has been sated on one who meant her no harm. In the natural world, the best principle is to lie low or get the hell out. Charming though her behaviour was with you, such trust may not be so well placed on a different occasion. But this time around, it was clearly magical for both participants.

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