Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Tracking deer at River Bend Nature Center August 4, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:27 AM
See that deer. Yeah, there, in the distance, under the canopy of trees.

See that deer. Yeah, there, in the distance, under the canopy of trees.

Walking along the mown path that slices through the tall, waving prairie grasses and wildflowers, we spot the deer. First one. Then another. And finally, two maturing fawns. They have seen us too and are momentarily paralyzed, alert to danger.

Likewise, Randy and I freeze in place. Silently, I will them to move closer, although I know that won’t happen. But it is the only way they will look larger than blurs of brown in the photos I want to take.

Oh, for a telephoto lens.

So Randy devises a plan. We will continue walking the short distance remaining between us and the woods at the River Bend Nature Center in Faribault. Then I will take the trail through the trees. He will circle back and drive the deer my direction.

I am nervous. My mind flashes back to the farm and rounding up cattle that have trampled the electric fence. My dad is telling me to stand still, don’t move, no matter what. I am a skinny little girl with a massive Holstein charging directly toward me. I move. My dad yells.

Now I hear a gentle clap, clap, clap breaking the quiet of this August evening as Randy shoos the deer my direction.

I am stationed on the dirt pathway edged by brush and trees, fully expecting a deer to leap through the dense growth. Camera viewfinder pressed against my eye, I wonder, should I focus straight ahead, to the side, where?

A mosquito buzzes in my ear. Leaves rustle.

And there ahead of me, I nearly miss the first deer ambling across the trail. Then the two babies peek at me. Together. Even from this distance, I can sense their fear. I snap several images, wish that I was closer.

They wait in the woods now, thinking we can’t see them. We can. I take more pictures, hearing the slow click of the camera shutter. It is dark here and I will be lucky if any pictures are in focus. I simply can’t hold my camera steady enough to shoot at such slow shutter speeds.

Randy motions for me to move the other direction, toward the amphitheater, he whispers. I race that way as quickly as I can in my flip flops.

And there I pause, again. The first deer bursts through the bushes. And then the fawns follow, hesitate when they see me. My camera whirs, all too long, all too loudly. One baby crosses the path. But the other diverts to the rocky hillside amphitheater and flees in the opposite direction.

All the while, my camera clicks.

Now I am worrying, not about charging deer, but about the fawns I have separated. All because I wanted to take their pictures.

The best photo I got of a fawn, the one that fled to the amphitheater.

The best photo I got of a fawn, the one that fled to the amphitheater.