Mark wanted to see some wild deer, and since I have had quite a run of hunting luck over the past few seasons, he assumed we would just stroll out into the woods and I would whistle them up. There was no point in trying to explain how alert and shy the animals are, how many hours a hunter waits for each deer he sees, or how little time we had that morning before we would have to start home. He wanted to see deer and that was that. I took comfort in the fact that we would be walking ground of such beauty he couldn't help but love it, and that one of the vital things a youngster must learn is that fathers can't do everything. The little wood lies on the edge of an Eastern Shore marsh. Tall pines shade out most of the undergrowth trying to root in the inch or so of humus that overlies the sterile sand. Where the occasional tree has fallen there are tangles of greenbrier and thickets of wax myrtle, but otherwise the ground is open, and the thin layer of pine needles makes it almost as quiet as carpet to walk upon. Once this land lay on the seashore, but a migrating barrier island came along and shielded part of the beach. Grass gave way to scrub and the scrub to trees, preserving the interlacing patterns of the ancient dunes. Even the wildest winter storms are muted by the pines, and here the deer come during the day to rest in the secret hollows. We went in from downwind, entering by an overgrown trail that opens into the towering vista without preliminaries, like a side door to a cathedral. The boy fell silent, awed as I always am, but within a few minutes he was chattering away as a nine- year-old must, particularly one who has spent the previous day being quiet for hours on end in a cold, cramped duck blind. His exuberance did not drive all the wild things to cover. There were a couple of the rare Delmarva fox squirrels, their tails seeming bigger than their bodies, and a pileated woodpecker whacking great chips from a dead pine. Along the edge of the bordering bay we found fox tracks and crab shells neatly emptied by a raccoon, and a vast stretch of ice where Mark could run teasing away because I was too heavy to follow. But time was growing short, so I called him back and maneuvered him into the woods again. He was lagging behind, puffing away on a twig with a pinecone attached like a pipe bowl, when I saw several small dark blurs scurry into a thicket. I circled behind it and told him to walk straight through. When the quail whirred up all around us he was stunned with shock and delight. It was more than I had hoped to be able to show him that day; afterwards, keeping to schedule didn't seem quite so important. We wandered slowly, exploring the ancient dunes. Each was a new hill for him to be king of, and I trailed along behind. "Pretend we're in slow motion," I whispered. "Ease along and try not to step on twigs. This is where we're most likely to see deer." He enjoyed the game at first, but when nothing happened it began to wear thin. I was about to give it up when the whiplash whistles of sika deer sounded from ahead and to the left. Three does went prancing stiff-legged away, their white rumps brilliant in the shadowy woods. "Gosh!" he said. "How do they run all straight up and down?" "I don't know. Maybe if we sit here for a while they'll come back. They do that sometimes. We know there's still at least one more off to the left, because we heard it whistle. They'll want to get back together." We sat until the boy began to fidget, but he stilled again when the two groups of deer began to pipe back and forth like birds on a roos whispered. "Sometimes they'll walk right up to you." She stayed with us for a full 10 minutes, but then one last loud whistle, sharp and imperative, came from a buck that had circled behind and caught our scent in the wind. The doe flounced away. It was time to go, and the boy was willing now. "But next time I want to see some deer really close," he said.