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.
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.