Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Too Close For Comfort

 During a visit to Shenandoah National Park during the 2011 rut I spotted a good buck at a considerable distance and decided to get closer.  Not to be left behind Brad Myers joined me with Willard bringing up the rear.  Twenty five yards distance was close enough for frame filling head shots with my 400mm so we set the tripods down and went to work.

The buck seemed unconcerned with our presence but then began moving in our direction.  By this time I was sitting on the ground keeping my camera low for a better shooting angle.  I noticed that he was drawing nearer and soon was zooming out to obtain the compositions I desired.

And then with his head down his ears went back; there was no doubting his aggressive body language.  We all began talking sternly to him as we slowly backed away, making sure to continue maintaining eye contact as we went.  After following us for twenty yards or so he lost interest, turned and began moving parallel.

When he came to the woodline he scraped.  This image captured him as he scent-marked the overhanging branches by licking and rubbing them with his facial glands.

As he moved through a strip of woodland we repositioned to intercept him coming out the other side.  We watched as he battled the bushes in mock fighting and then as he began to emerge shutters began clicking.

And once again he headed directly toward the cameras!  When he lifted his tail we all knew that it was time once again to move back and give him room.  While this body language may not appear threatening don't be mislead; it is!  When a whitetail encounters a predator, if they don't flee, they will approach with head held high and tail lifted just as this buck was doing to us. 

Later in the evening we were again photographing the same buck as he rubbed a large tree, but this time from a much greater distance and this time he didn't seem to mind.

This whitetail was the most agressive buck I have ever encountered during my years of photographing the rut.  Having an understanding of their body language and behaviour helped defuse the situation.  Always remember if you get into a "Too Close For Comfort" situation always back away slowly, maintain eye contact, and never, never turn and run for that may be the trigger that brings on an attack.

As the sun dropped below the horizon we watched as this same buck approached another photographer with head and tail up.  The photographer, being seasoned and fully understanding the situation, backed away and continued backing until the buck lost interest.


11 comments:

TexWisGirl said...

wow. a very feisty but handsome fellow! glad no one got hurt!

heyBJK said...

Great shots, Coy! I especially like the last one with him rubbing that big tree. He's quite ambitious!

Ruth's Photo Blog said...

Yikes! This did result in some fantastic images,but no picture is worth getting hurt for.

Montanagirl said...

He's beautiful, but I wouldn't want to tangle with him. Marvelous shots!

Paul in Powell River said...

Great series!

HANNIBAL said...

What a great story Coy! I haven't had that happen to me yet, but now I know what to look for and how to handle a potentially dangerous situation. Thanks! Great photos of him and a story you will never forget!

Brad Myers said...

Coy, he had me a little worried. After you guys left the park a couple of days later he pushed me out of the meadow again and forced Billy C. And I around his van. After that encounter I never bothered with him again.

Faylinn said...

What a beautiful Blog you have..I wish you a merry christmas

Cindy said...

Gorgeous! I don't see much deer here where I live but once in a while I'll see some young deer along side the road. Too close for comfort. I'm afraid they'll come out in front of me or someone else. I get so excited though when I do see them. Beautiful creatures.

Tom said...

As always it is a pleasure to stop by and see your fantastic pictures..
Just wanted to let you know I've been thinking of you and wondering how you were getting on.. great to see you are still blogging..

Merry Christmas my friend to you and all you hold dear... have a wonderful time.

Arija said...

Always a good thing to be able to read body language.
I had a touchy encounter with one or our young bulls as he was having a sand bath. I was crossing our paddock, heading for the gate as a couple of calves became skittish. Our cattle are completely tame and will come to be scratched or just to companion sit but the thunder in the ground disrupted the bull;s bath, he looked up and at the sight of me, started pawing the ground. Now with an angry bull, sight contact is not a good thing so I dropped my eyes, and still keeping him in sight, changed my line of approsch and sidled some 30 yards behind a little bushel of tall grass which sufficiently broke my outline for the bull to realise I was no threat. He wandered over to the cows and I resumed my way to the gate.
It is always best to diffuse confrontational situations, I just wish countries would learn that too.

A Happy Christmas to you and many thanks for another year of brilliant nature photography.