Jennifer walked alone quietly through the state park’s woods and ate her favorite leaves. Food for white-tailed deer had been plentiful during the spring. It continued to be so in summer, but cooler days warned her the woods in which she lived were about to become dangerous. Hunting season was about to begin.
Jennifer had learned about hunters years before. It had been early fall. The morning had been cool. She and another doe had gone to enjoy the variety of grasses a meadow nearby offered. They had been out in the open when her companion’s tail went up as a warning that she had sensed danger. Jennifer had heard an odd squishing sound that had come from her companion’s direction. The other doe had been struck by an arrow, had stumbled, and then had fallen. Jennifer had run into the cover of trees knowing her companion would not follow.
Jennifer remembered that morning as she reached a spot behind some bushes that grew where the woods and a meadow met. She smelled the air and analyzed it for signs of danger. She looked around the woods that surrounded the meadow. She saw a sign. Across the meadow, men moved through the woods. They were scouting. They would soon return to hunt. It was time for her to leave.
Jennifer had survived past hunting seasons by taking a long and hazardous trip from the woods in the state park to smaller woods surrounding a golf course. There was a path older deer had worn that helped her find her way there. She found and followed this path soon after seeing the humans in the woods.
Jennifer followed the path through the familiar parts of the woods where she lived. Then, the path took her to denser parts with which she was less familiar. She caught scents other deer had left on the vegetation that formed walls beside the path. The path led her across fields where she stopped to eat. It also led her by a creek where she stopped to drink. The path led through backyards and close to homes. Some of the homes had left out food for deer, and she was happy to eat it.
Predators also used the path to travel. Jennifer had grown large enough to fight off most predators. She was occasionally surprised by a dog. Some just wanted her to leave their territory. Others wanted to play and barked and nipped at her heels. She dealt with dogs easily. However, there was one predator she feared almost as much as humans. Unfortunately, she encountered one on her trip.
As Jennifer walked, she saw a black figure using the path ahead of her. She stopped and looked closely at it. It was a bear. When the bear noticed her, it began to charge. She raised her tail. If the bear knocked her down, it would not try to kill her: it would just begin to eat her. She stomped her feet and let out a grunt as a warning. As the bear came nearer, she stomped again and released a foul smelling fluid onto the ground from the glands in her feet. The bear was undeterred. When the bear was close enough that she could see the glassy surface of its eyes, she leapt off the path and ran. The bear chased her, but she was much faster than the bear. She got away.
Jennifer found a place to hide after her escape and remained hidden. After she calmed down, she found her way back to the path. It was the only way she knew how to get to the woods surrounding the golf course. She felt heavy from the energy she lost taking flight from the bear, but she wanted to keep moving forward. She ate familiar foods offered naturally by the forest as she went. She stored the food in one stomach, but it would not be digested until she was resting in a safe place.
The path led Jennifer to grass cut short along the side of a road. Then, the path ended where it met the asphalt surface of a highway. She knew the path continued on the other side. She also knew automobiles traveled at high speeds on the road. She was poor at judging their velocity and had just barely survived other crossings. She saw a truck coming. She was going to cross in front of it, but its loud horn startled her. She stopped and watched it roar by. The wind from its wake made her take a step back.
Jennifer watched cars approach from the left and go by. After a long while, she did not see cars in the horizon from the direction from which they had approached. She crossed quickly and stopped on the grass at the median between the road going east and the road going west. In her way, was a short steel barrier that prevented vehicles from crossing the median.
Jennifer looked left and saw no cars. Without hesitation, she jumped over the barrier and onto the asphalt. A car made a screeching sound when the driver slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting Jennifer. She looked in the direction of the screeching noise. She saw the car coming toward her on her right. She prepared to leap forward; however, a large truck flew past the car on the other lane. She changed direction and began to run back. She heard a horn. She changed direction again and ran across the road without caution. She was lucky. She made it to the shoulder on the other side.
Jennifer knew the cars would stay on the road and not try to run her down. Once she was on the grass beside the road, she slowed down and eased her way into the thick vegetation at the edge of the woods. She found the path quickly and followed it. The sounds of tires rolling over the highway were faintly audible behind her. She was almost at her destination.
As Jennifer walked through the woods, she caught a scent a buck had left on vegetation. She had been alone since her companion had been killed. She occasionally met other deer and she was friendly, but she preferred to be alone. She did not yet want the company of a buck, but she saw it as she walked further down the path. The buck saw her too. He began to trot toward her. She was familiar enough with the woods and simply walked into brush where she knew he could not follow because of his antlers. As she walked through, she heard him struggling and grunting behind her.
Jennifer walked through the thicker vegetation until the air was free of the scent of bucks. She could not hear the highway. She stopped to rest and digest food she had eaten along the way. When she felt her energy return, she found her way back to the path. She followed it until it faded. She knew then she had arrived. There were no hunters, only golfers. Better still, people living by the golf course would leave out deer food during the winter. She would live there until the end of hunting season. In the spring, she would return using the same path to the woods in the state park.
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