“FAWN!”, I yelled as it became clear that the gangly little creature behind the Doe in the road was, in fact, its offspring. And it was un-collared. My job is relatively simple…Put radio collars on fawns, and track them. Like so…
My head jerked back is the Hemi roared up to speed, but I kept my eyes focused on the fawn. It and its mother tore off into the bushes as the truck approached where we had spotted them. The fawn was still in that awkward stage where it can’t run really well. Maybe a week old. I had it in my sights. Radio collar in hand, I opened the passenger door to the truck and bailed out…
While we were still moving.
I realized my mistake only after my feet hit the ground. To “hit the ground running” is much easier said than done. And generally isn’t a phrase that’s supposed to be taken literally. The truck was luckily moving slow enough that I managed to keep my balance and only stumble into the roadside ditch.
My feet soon caught up with my body and with my balance regained I charged full speed toward the brush, watching as a tiny white tail disappeared at shin level. From the truck, the brush looked no more than knee high. It wasn’t until I leaped full speed into the thicket that I realized the brush was closer to chest height.
Now considerably slower, I high stepped my way through the brush, tight on the heels of my spotted little target. I was getting closer. Only a stride or two behind the little guy when it suddenly changed directions and made a 90 degree turn. I did my best to follow, but running full speed through high brush doesn’t really allow for quick turns. And almost as if on queue, I began to lose my balance.
There’s a bizarre slowing of time that happens when one is about to fall. Not the kind of falls where you just end up flat on your backside, but rather the falls that you think you can recover from. Slipping on that slimy rock in the river. The slick boat launch at dawn. Tripping over that cypress knee, or even tilting just a -little- too far back in your chair. This was one of those instances. I struggled to catch myself for a good 10 yards (I got this, I got this, I got-) before finally, (I don’t got this) I fell. Hard
Quail plantations are relatively unique in that almost everything that grows can cut, prick, or outright stab you. So when I finally hit the ground, I wasn’t welcomed by a cushion of soft grass, but rather a healthy mixture of briars, Devil’s Walkingstick, and blackberry bushes.
I should get up and keep chasing that deer, is what ran through my mind. Nature, however, had other ideas as I realized I was practically pinned with thorns. I rolled over onto my back and attempted to get up only to discover I’d managed to wrap myself up tighter in the briars. My adrenaline faded fast as I lay on my back and stared through the body shaped hole in the brush to the blue sky beyond. I became suddenly aware of how scratched up I was.
“Did you get it!? Alex? I’ve got the scale!…Where are you?!”, my boss’ voice drifted up from the direction of the truck.
“Ow”, I answered back. My voice slightly muffled. Something was across my face, pinning my lip back. Ah, another briar…lovely.
It took me a couple of minutes to break free from my vegetative hell. I made my way back toward the truck, bits and pieces of thorns and briars trailing behind me.
I can’t believe I got juked by a deer barely old enough to walk.
“I take it you didn’t catch it…”
“Psh…You think?” I chuckled back as I walked toward the truck through the brush. “I didn’t have a snowball’s chance in..”
I was cut short as I heard something moving not ten feet away. I caught a glimpse of the spotted little fawn as it got up from its hiding place. It had been staying still and quiet right next to where I’d fallen. I watched as it made an awkward break for some even thicker cover, and disappeared completely.