Stab Magazine | How Matt Meola Ended Up Fathering A Baby Deer

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How Matt Meola Ended Up Fathering A Baby Deer

“Holy shit, she’s pregnant!” 

news // Aug 17, 2017
Words by stab
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Life and death piece together in a strange sweetness.

Late July, I was on a boat in Fiji talking to Chippa Wilson. He’d just gotten back from a trip to the Maldives with Matt Meola. “Matt was diving for lobster and got bumped by a shark! When he came up, I’d never seen him so scared,” said Chippa with wide eyes and a smile. “I guess when they slap their (lobster) tails it attracts them, but in the Maldives, sharks are the least of your worries….well, so we thought. He took some deep breaths, calmed down and went back in to get the lobster,” he laughed. As we carried on the conversation, a story of Matt’s pet deer, Doenut, came up. It was warm, mortal and unlike any I’d heard.

Matt is a modern, yet primitive hunter. Modern in the sense that it’s 2017 and he wears shoes; primitive in the sense that he hunts with a bow and arrow and leaves nothing to spoil. To him, hunting’s no sport, there’s no treacherous reality of trophy animals to mount above a fireplace and tell the story of that time you paid $50k to rifle down a lion named Cecil in Zimbabwe.

I rang Matt last week, “I’m just playing daddy to little Doenut,” Matt told Stab.

Doenut is six weeks old and lives at Matt’s home, up until recently she slept in his and his girlfriend’s bed. He, his girlfriend, Mom and sister have been playing parent to her since she came out of the womb.

“Me and my buddies, Travis and Ollie, were hunting on this ranch,” he said. “I was about a half mile from where my friends were and I got a text message from Travis. He had shot a deer, and when he got over to her, something was kicking inside her. He was like, ‘holy shit, she’s pregnant!’

He cut her open and pulled it out. The baby deer wasn’t breathing; he gave her CPR and saved her. He put her in his backpack and when I met up with him, he was holding this baby deer.”

https://player.vimeo.com/video/229896867

They didn’t know what to do with the to-be-named Doenut (spelt with an “e” as a female deer’s called a “doe”), so they took her to the Boo Boo Zoo on Maui. “It’s where you take injured or abandoned animals and they’ll take care of them,” said Matt. “The only thing is, once you drop them off there, you can’t take them back. When they told us that we kept her.”

A pregnant deer falling on the wrong side of an arrow is not rare on Maui. Their hunting season never ends; the deer actively reproduce. “I swear half the deer are pregnant here,” Matt said. “But, I’ve never heard of anyone saving one like that.”

IMG 0525

Travis, the man who can add deer delivery to his resume.

Matt took Doenut to his home where his sister, Lilly and his mom lent a motherly hand. “We’re currently trying to transition her into going outside,” he said. “We take her our three times a day and walk her around. The first time we had her outside she freaked out and ran into the fence and cut up her face. Deers have something in their DNA that if anything startles them they go nuts and freak out. Right now, she’s a full-time job. Someone has to be in the house at all times to take care of her. It’s been a big effort from not only us, thankfully tons of friends have helped babysit and build her pen. In the beginning, we had to hold her while she slept. She’d be curled up in our necks. When I walk around the house she follows me. We’ve had to put down a trail of yoga mats throughout our house because she slides out on the wood.”

IMG 3440

Doesn’t this just make your chest feel squishy? 

There are two dogs and two cats at the Meola household, I asked if she’s adopting the characteristics of either animal. “To be honest, she acts like a normal deer, just she’s not afraid of people,” he said. “The dogs will come up and try and play with her and lick her, and she kind of just ignores them and cruises.” Outside, they’re building a pen, so when she gets too big to be a house deer, she’ll have to acclimate to the outdoors. “She’s getting big quick,” he continued. “She’s about up to my knee. We want to keep her at our house but if that doesn’t work out we have some friends who have a deer they raised and they said we could bring her up to their property.”  

“She probably thinks she’s a dog or a human,” he laughs. “I don’t think you’ll find another deer that has never seen another deer.”

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