Saturday, December 6, 2008

Camera Critters: An Old Friend Is Gone


The first morning of Pennsylvania's rifle deer season and every deer in this photography is a legal target--if a hunter has the proper tags and they are in an area where hunting is permitted. Fortunately these animals are safe, unless they stray from the posted sanctuary or a wildlife criminal drives by and shoots them from his vehicle.

It is unclear just what happened, but on the third morning of season, I realized that the large doe which is standing to the left side of the picture and looking to the left, was missing and most likely dead.

The First Day Of Season

This animal was born in 2000 along with a twin sister. At that time I was mostly shooting video and I recorded many beautiful clips of them. She had her first fawn in 2003 and has had one or two fawns each year since then. She was especially trusting of me, and often gave me opportunities to photograph her young. She was featured in a post a short time ago with one of her fawns from this year, which is a small doe.

With doe fawn from this year: November 15th

She was a stunning photographic subject when she was standing in a good position, but many readers were concerned about her health when they noted how thin and bony she appeared in many shots. This thin look was most likely a combination of genetics and a result of the strain of raising a large number of fawns.

With newborn fawn: June 2008

In Her Prime: August 2005

It is most likely that I will never know what happened to her. It is very possible that she strayed from the posted sanctuary and was legally killed, but I am leaning toward the view that she was taken by a road hunter, since I have seen some well known practitioners of this crime driving past since season opened.

As it stands, a favorite deer that has provided countless hours of viewing pleasure is gone. There is a remote possibility that she will yet return, but she never missed a day of putting in an appearance in the past, so it seems likely that she is gone forever.

Road hunting was one of the most common violations, which I encountered in my years as a Deputy Wildlife Conservation Officer.

For more Camera Critters photos, click Here!

27 comments:

Carletta said...

Such a sad post.
I know and understand the sport of hunting. I grew up with it. What is so sad is the unsportsmanlike incident this seems to have been.
Wonderful shots of her Willard - especially like that one with her fawn.

Larry said...

Hello Willard, you are a true steward of the land and I thank you for that. Beautiful photos of the deer. I personally can't see why anyone would want to kill such a beautiful animal unless they were starving. I believe the native Americans were the last people in this country that had a need and they used a bow and arrow. At least the deer and elk had a sporting chance.

Lilli & Nevada said...

Beautiful shots I hate it when its hunting season. to me it is so sad to see these beautiful animals killed.

Tommy said...

Wonderful post. I agree with Larry I just do not see how people could shoot such a wonderful animal. Keep up the great work.

Grammy said...

Wonderful post, I love your photos.
This is my first time on Camera critters.
Have a great week.
Grammy

Naturegirl said...

I will never understand the idea of killing innocent animals for so called sport! I detest hunters always have and will!This was a sad story to read.
Thank you for validating this beautiful animals existance by telling us about her.You are one with the nature world.

i beati said...

a plethera for sure. I remember riding home in Bucks county and seeing valleys with 17 or so toward nightfall. sk

Your EG Tour Guide said...

I am so sorry to read this. It's all so sad. It's bad enough that humans think they have the right to kill animals...but the possibility that it was done illegally is reprehensible!

Nikki-ann said...

Beautiful photos. I'm sorry to hear she has gone :(

babooshka said...

This is truly sad. One of the best days in the UK was the banning of fox hunting.Beautiful creature and I do hope that your worst fears are unfounded.

Gretchen said...

She is a beautiful creature. Sorry your friend is gone, but eight years is a long life for a deer.

It's well known I'm a friend of hunting and do believe it is completely necessary. I've seen far too many deer starve to death to ever think that the herds don't need thinned.

b13 said...

I was driving through PA yesterday and was amazed at how many deer I had seen in the fields. Great captures!

Cathy said...

What a wonderful, caring post. Visiting your blog is always a pleasure.

Shellmo said...

She was beautiful. I pray that se appears and will be sad if she does not. Reminds me of that book "The gift of Deer" - have you read it?

Ken Conger Photography said...

Hunting can certainly be a divisive issue. No matter what side you are on, no hunter condones the acttions of poacher who claims his kill from the side of the road. These violators destroy the image of those that chose to do it for the tradition, the sport or for wildlife management.

kjpweb said...

I second Ken on that. It's rotten.
Cheers, Klaus

fishing guy said...

Willard: That was a neat post and a wonderful look at the cycle of life with the fawns. It is a shame when people ingnore laws.

The Birdlady said...

So beautiful! I think the deer are just so wondrously gorgeous...I'll not comment on the hunters.

Stacey Huston said...

Willard, If your beautiful doe does not return, I can only hope that however she passed, It was done with honor and integrity. Doesn't sound like it was though, and that is a shame. I too stand with Ken on this one, I do however hope that it does not fuel the "All hunters are evil" fire (grin) But I can completely relate to your sorrow. The hurd here were I live was just starting to come back from poor management and poaching for years. The Game and Fish here in Wyo left this area open for general tag, any deer. I firmly believe it should have been made 4pt or better. We had a group of out of staters come in and they completely wiped out the hurd~right out of our, and the neighbors yards when we were gone, the deer are Gone, all but a hand full of does and one buck (maybe a two year old) Sickens me to think how they were taken, and I am a firm believer in hunting. But not poaching, or unethical behavior of any shape or form.. Thank you for sharing your story, and I Do hope that your friend returns safe and healthy, or that maybe she went off by herself someplace and passed with honor..

Faye Pekas said...

She is/was beautiful. I hope she does show up again. The shot of the fawn nursing is so precious.

T and S said...

A beautiful series of images. I especially like the one where you got just 2 of them posing for it. And your narration of the road hunting is incredbile. Thank God hunting in banned in India. Unfortunately like this roading hunting, poaching is still rampant in some wildlife reserves across India.

Chris said...

Better admire them and take them into pictures than kill them!!! There are so beautiful.. Nice pictures and thanks to share your feelings..

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

What a shame that this has happened Willard. I know what it is like to loose a good "friend" like this. During my years working in the bush, this happened to me too and it is sad.

Louise said...

Oh, this makes me sad, but probably not as sad as you since you "knew" her. I am sure I will NEVER understand people. I hope she was at least taken legally, but you are probably right. How very sad.

Kerri said...

Oh, what a sad post! I am hoping that she turns up again and wasn't killed!

Leedra said...

I understand legal hunting, and have eaten deer meat alot. Not in about 20 years though. I also understand getting attached to the same deer(s), and hate to see anything happen to them.

I don't understand hunters (or anybody else) that don't think the rules apply to them. If we don't go by the rules there won't be any left to hunt. Save havens is not the place to hunt. That would be like hunting in Cades Cove, where I could reach and touch some of the ones I photograph. They are that tame.

Misty Dawn said...

The photos are fantastic, and it makes me feel good that there is such a sanctuary for these beautiful animals. However, I am saddened by the doe's story - I will keep her in my thoughts and in my heart - I will hope for a miracle (her return).