Stalking on Snowshoes
By Barbara Hussell
I did not think of stalking on this beautiful January day in the Three Sisters area in
Central Oregon, for I was on snowshoes. The snow was in melt at 50°
but it was still crusted in the shade from freezing at night. I was alive with the day and
moving at a moderate pace, watching for wildlife and scanning the tracks. The snow was
still one and a half feet deep except for the bare, wet ground under the juniper and pine.
Squirrel and coyote and many, many deer winter here and the snow was crossed heavily with
a multitude of tracks.
I paused as in the periphery of my eye to my right lay a mule deer doe, this year's
fawn, asleep under a small pine 25' away. I froze and watched for five minutes.
Occasionally, her eye opened and closed. One ear against her body stood straight up, and
the other lay down horizontally. I scanned the area carefully for her mother. I saw no
other deer. I slowly checked my camera and found I had snapped the last photo on the roll.
A small juniper stood ahead of me five feet, which could shield me as I changed film. My
snowshoe stretched ahead, jerking some as it loosed itself from the snow where it had
melted in while I stood. I froze. She slept. I moved the snowshoes slowly and carefully.
Upon occasion at the sound she would raise her head and look directly at me with sleepy
eyes. She turned her head and finally lay it down again to rest on her leg as before. I
went on, reached the slim juniper, changed film in my 35 mm camera, and decided to
At this point she carefully rose and slowly moved to an adjacent juniper to feed. I
watched all the time for mother, but no other deer was in sight. I had no cover but low
bitterbrush and sage, and I stalked on these noisy snowshoes. I made sure I pushed down as
hard as possible on the forward shoe before I shifted my entire weight to it, so it would
not suddenly sink. I took two photos, and put the camera away. The doe was shifting from
looking directly in my direction to showing me her broadside. I moved when she was eating
I must have let down and unconsciously felt I was invisible, when I was
18 feet away. She saw me, backed up, darted to a barbwire fence and caught her foot in it,
fell, and lay there. I chastised myself, for her energy level was low. She went 20 feet,
lay down, and in five minutes, stiff-legged, walked away. I left, sorry I had disturbed
her. Yet I learned one can stalk on snowshoes.
The doe appeared calm. Either she had not had much human contact or, it
occurred to me, had she come from my friend three miles away who cares for Fish &
Wildlife game when they are hurt? I called her. I don't think so. I hope she survives.