Clare County Review & Marion Press

A Doe Named Ma

Nine years ago this spring, a neighbor brought Marion resident Gary Hill a baby fawn.
The fawn had just been orphaned, her mother hit by a car along 21 Mile Road just northwest of Marion. And Gary – who had experience raising fawns at Claude Pollington’s Buck Pole Ranch – knew exactly how to get the fawn headed in the right direction.
9 years later, and that fawn keeps moving right along. She’s lived through multiple gunshot wounds, and raised 8 sets of twins. She returns home to visit her human parents – Gary and Sue – just about every day.
They call her Ma.
“She was about a week old when we got her,” Gary said. “The mother got killed on the road. She was an orphan and a neighbor brought her here. And I had raised fawns before, but I’d let them loose. They come in and take the bottle and then they’d go back into the woods.”
“That first fawn [that I raised], the coyotes got her,” Gary said. “This one, I put a fence up between the house until she got high enough so she could get away from them. Once I did that, she started coming in the house, and I’d let her out, and away she’d go.”
For the first few months of Ma’s life, she’d hang out in the house, and in the backyard, playing with the dogs and the grandkids.
“It’s about three months before they get big enough [to run from predators],” Gary said. “The dog took care of her.”
But after letting Ma run free in the wild some 9 years ago, she just kept returning to visit her humans.
“I let her loose,” Gary said. “She’s come in the house, and eat the toast off the table. She likes bananas, marshmallows. About every morning and every night she wants her marshmallows, and bananas and her cookies. Little Debbie donuts. I’ll tease her with the donuts. I’ll put it up to her nose, and I’ll take it back and she’ll stretch out to get it. She loves them donuts. Or I’ll take a cookie, and put it in my mouth, and she’ll take it right there.”
From the beginning, Gary attached a collar-like indicator around Ma’s neck so neighbors – and hunters – would recognize her.
“It’s a police tape around her neck,” Gary said. “I don’t want a collar on her because she gets hung up, and that flagging tape will break. Every once in a while, she loses it, and I’ll go to put it on her and she’ll duck. Playing games with me. Eventually she’ll just let me slip it on.”
Despite the flagging tape, Ma has had to survive a couple of gunshot wounds over the years.
“Within the first year, she got shot,” Gary said. “She had a big hole in her back, but she could reach around and she healed herself.”
And this past Thanksgiving, Ma was shot again. This time, in the front left leg. Immediately after being shot, the deer made its way to Gary’s house and laid down near the house.
“She laid there that day after she got shot,” Gary said. “She went out, and she came back and she laid there. Sue said, ‘Maybe she wants some water?’ She drank three great big bowls of water, which is rare because usually they get their water from the creek.”
Despite the wounded leg, Ma seems to be, once again, headed in the right direction.
“She’s kind of healed it back up,” Gary said. “She’s got a bad limp, but she uses it kind of like a cane. She still gets around. On three legs, you ought to see her run. She can move.”
Although Ma doesn’t come in the house anymore, she still stops by to visit just about every day. She’ll bring her fawns, and yearlings, along with her other deer companions. She’s had twins each of the last 8 years, and will likely have some more this spring.
“I liked it when she used to come in the house,” Gary said. “I’d open the slider, and here she’d come. I’d be eating my breakfast, and there goes my toast. She’d come in at night, and there’d be other deer out there, and she’d come in and eat and she’d watch the other deer through the slider. And when they left, she wanted to go. So I’d open the slider, and away she went.”
Every spring, Ma disappears for about 3 weeks. And every spring, she eventually returns to Gary’s yard – along with some company.
“You’ll see [her fawns] walk through the yard,” Gary said. “I’ve got two bowls on the deck right there, and that’s what she eats out of. And pretty soon the fawns will follow her right up and that’s what they’ll eat out of. She had two buck fawns this last year.”
Ma, at 9 years old, has lived quite the life for a deer. With a life expectancy of around 10 to 12 years, Gary knows the day will come when she won’t return to visit. But until then, he’s going to enjoy his time with her.
“Last night, she come out there [in the backyard] and she stood around,” Gary said. “Sometimes, she’ll stay for 45 minutes or so, eating grass and mulling around. Last night I went out and was combing her, getting all that dead hair from her. She’s a character. There’s going to be a day when she’s not around, and I’ll feel kind of bad about that. I’ve watched her for a lot of years.”

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