Taking Care of the Girls
Many years ago, before I began carrying camera equipment on my hikes in the woods, I would carry a bow or shotgun. I hunted Iowa’s whitetail deer from elevated treestands and from the ground. Many hours were spent scouting before the fall hunting seasons opened and then during the actual hunting seasons with both styles of weapons. Now, years later, during the whitetail rut I still have strong urges to chase deer through the timber. These days I take care of those urges with a Nikon.
Serious deer hunters, especially those pursuing a nice Iowa whitetail buck, know there are three critically important factors needed to find the big boys – food, habitat, and girl deer (does). If you have food and habitat, the does will be there. During the rut, when you find the does, you will have found the bucks too. The challenge then becomes finding the trophy bucks.
As I stated earlier, I often have the urge to hunt deer in the fall. For the past few days I looked forward to getting out this afternoon to see what I could find. Initially all I found were deer rubs on trees and scrapes on the ground. If I found one, I found a half-dozen.
I knew bucks were in the area chasing the girls, but would I be able to find any and if I did, might I be able to photograph them? My hunt was on with me in a ghillie suit and a camera and a timber full of deer, at least I hoped there were deer. I did quite a bit of walking and all I found was this not too impressive buck.
Thinking I might not see anything special, I even turned my attention to “non-deer” photo subjects.
Then I found does moving around the woods. Of course they did not stay still for long, but most paused long enough for photos.
With the girls located, I was confident it would be just a matter of time before I found a buck bigger than the first one I saw. What I was not expecting was to find two bucks in the same area. One appeared to be older with an acceptable rack. The other buck was clearly dominant and sported a fine rack.
Based on their behavior (lack of fear of an unknown tree that moved (me in my ghillie suit)), to the point they stomped the ground and moved toward me, I was able to shoot many pictures. At one point I even picked up a stout stick with a fork in it and started rubbing a tree with it. That action/sound caught the attention of the largest buck who moved even closer.
Not only was I able to photograph bucks and does alone, I managed to capture a few frames of the bucks with does. Notice how often the bucks have their mouths open and/or tongues out (flehmening). They do that to better capture scent in the air – scent of a doe that might be receptive to their one season per year romantic advances.
I stayed with the deer for the better part of an hour. Being dressed in the 3-D camo of a ghillie suit allowed the deer to watch me, but not run from me. When they eventually moved down a hill, I called it a day and hiked back to my truck.
Following is a sampling of the images recorded today. You should see the three sizes of bucks: small, acceptable, and big. Both of the larger bucks had girlfriends. When the acceptable buck moved away, the big boy followed him out of the area, then returned to his harem feeding within eyesight of where I had remained hidden.