Sunday, November 30, 2008

Monday Morning: Pa Deer Season

Dawn, normally a quiet time of day in rural Pennsylvania, will be anything but quiet tomorrow. Well before the first light of day people all over the state will be rising from their warm beds and preparing to spend the day in the cold wet woods.

The Monday after Thanksgiving has been the traditional season opener of the Pennsylvania’s buck season for more years than I have been alive. With time comes change and it is now the opening day of rifle season. We have more seasons in which to hunt deer than you can shake a stick at; two archery seasons, muzzleloader season, flintlock season and rifle season not to count the deer damage seasons that run independent of the regular seasons.
Depending upon which part of Pa one is hunting in, for a buck to be legal for most hunters, it must have either 3 or 4 points on one antler. Most areas are open for the harvest of does, but not all. Since Pennsylvania is a state that does not discriminate, if the hunter is currently active duty military or is less than seventeen years old then a legal buck is defined as a deer having one antler 3” or longer. If the aspiring deer hunter is less than twelve years old a hunting license is not required. Believe it or not, if a baby is accompanied by a controlling adult, that baby is allowed to legally kill a buck in the upcoming season. That’s right; there is no minimum age requirement for one to hunt deer in Pennsylvania.

Are you confused? I doubt that Pennsylvania has cornered the market on confusing regulations, but our legislature and the commission bureaucracy has certainly done a great job of making a mess out of something that once was simple and straightforward. I have not even touched upon the regulations governing the wearing of safety clothing, that in and of itself would make quite a few post.

In only a few hours hundreds of thousands of people will brave the weather and the morass of regulations to pursue the Pennsylvania whitetail deer. This season opener will effectively close the book on my Pennsylvania buck photography for 2008.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Photoshopped Buck

This is the same buck featured in yesterday’s post

I took the liberty to replace his broken antler beam with a little bit of Photoshop magic. Hopefully this buck will still be roaming SNP next autumn with a full rack.

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Friday, November 28, 2008

Calendar Boy

During my most recent trip to Shenandoah National Park Tuesday I encountered this massive whitetail buck. Even with one antler beam missing he is an impressive animal.

Upon returning home and comparing photos I concluded that this is the same buck that I photographed in 2007 and is published in the Pa Game Commission 2009 Calendar. Too compare his rack click here to view his 2007 image.

It was obvious during Tuesday’s visit that the rut had ended. The deer were exhibiting typical winter feeding and resting patterns. Interestingly enough, although I witnessed considerable rutting activity in Pa on Monday, since my return from SNP Pennsylvania rutting activity has ground to a halt also.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

SkyWatch at the Byrd Visitor Center: SNP

Wednesday morning found Willard & I once again in Shenandoah National Park.

I shot this photograph of the Byrd Visitor Center located at Big Meadows as the first hints of dawn’s arrival began to show in the eastern sky behind the building.

For more Sky Watch click here

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Turkey

Today let us share a Thanksgiving tradition, Eastern Wild Turkey

The gobblers pictured here should not be gracing anyone’s Thanksgiving table as this photograph was taken Monday and wild turkey season is past. You may notice that the gobbler standing to the left is exhibiting aggressive body language.

Shortly after these gobblers came into sight the aggressive gobbler strutted as they do during the spring mating season fluffing up and fanning his tail. Then he began circling the other gobbler in an attempt to bring him to battle. This behavior continued as long as they were visible to me which was over 30 minutes. During the entire encounter the harassed gobbler constantly turned away to avoid conflict.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cold Rainy Days of Late Autumn

My time away from work is seemingly coinciding with cold dreary weather. Of course dreary is normal for November here.

The dampness from the rain enhances the colors of the grasses bordering the creek, breathing life into this photograph.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Whitetail Buck: Frosty Morning

This morning dawned cold and mostly cloudy. With the thermometer hovering at a chilly 22 deg. F the fields were covered in frost. Take notice of the light coating of frost running along this buck’s spine.

Sleet and freezing rain arrived this afternoon. As I sit in my warm little office making this post with the rain falling outside, I am hoping to find everything coated in ice when Tuesday’s dawn arrives.
5:00AM update: our temps moderated overnight. It is 36 deg F this morning so no ice shot for me this morning.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Today’s Buck

With the Whitetail Rut in full swing for the past two weeks I have been focusing all of my attention on this year’s crop of bucks. I have been photographing bucks both in Shenandoah National Park and in my home area of South Central Pa.

The natural habits of the whitetail in both locations are alike but their acceptance of humans is completely different. The park deer are generally acclimated to human presence and go about their day with little regard of human intrusion unless someone invades their comfort zone. If one wants to observe and photograph natural whitetail behavior places like SNP are ideal.

Photographing wild buck in areas open to hunting is a different matter entirely. These bucks are forever on guard for humans as any and all humans are seen as a deadly threat.

The buck pictured here is one of those bucks. Willard and I photographed him this afternoon as he pursued a doe. When he was within 100 yards, even with mating on his mind, the clicking of our shutters was enough to cause alarm. His concern for survival was powerful so that he left the hot doe and fled to into the woodland.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Camera Critters: Guarding the Kingdom

A mature Whitetail Buck stands at attention like a sovereign of old watching over his realm.

I love spending time in the field watching and photographing whitetails during the rut.

The buck’s appearance with their swollen necks and polished antlers are more impressive at this time of year than any other.

Gone are the lazy days of summer spent feeding and fending off biting insects; ahead lay the difficult days of winter when battling snow and finding sufficient food will be their greatest challenge, but now during the rut all of a buck’s time and energy is devoted to siring next years fawn crop.

For more Critters please drop by Misty’s Camera Critters by clicking HERE

Friday, November 21, 2008

Lookout Crow

Perched high in the bare branches, a crow stands guard over a flock of Wild Turkeys feeding below.

Watching this small flock of Wild Turkey gobblers feeding on a dreary November day, I felt some disappointment in that the lighting was not good for producing detailed images.

As I continued to watch it dawned upon me to select a shorter focal length and capture the interaction between the turkeys and the crow along with the habitat surrounding them.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

SkyWatch: Gray November

November skies in Pennsylvania are frequently gray and dismal.

So far this month we have experienced more gloomy days than usual along with below average temperatures.

For more Skies around the world click “Sky Watch”

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Buck Break: Woodpecker

We interrupt this Buck Show to bring you a Woodpecker

When photographing nature sometimes a species other than our target species presents a photographic opportunity. Such was the case with this woodpecker.

I was sitting quietly in a small pop-up blind in our Pennsylvania woodland when this bird landed close by. I believe this to be an immature female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker but I am not 100% positive of the identification.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Shooting from Behind

Trying to mix things up a bit while photographing wildlife, I sometimes try some shots from the rear. I believe this perspective presents this buck’s antler spread in an advantageous manner for the greatest viewer impact.

I also used Photoshop to apply Gaussian blur and darken the periphery to focus the viewer’s attention upon the buck.

Like it or not, tell me what you think. I promise I won’t be offended.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Challenge

The highlight of Tuesday’s visit to SNP was the photo session with this wide ten point Whitetail. In this photograph the 10pt is posturing in a successful attempt to intimidate the smaller buck.

This buck afforded me the opportunity to photograph him for over an hour. The entire time he was staying close to a doe; frequently standing motionless watching the area intently as she nibbled at the surrounding vegetation.

Stay tuned as I will be posting more photos of this buck in the days to come.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

In Danger!

I have had the pleasure of spending the last week in the fields collecting autumn images with my primary focus being on the whitetail rut. Each morning I was out before dawn retuning home for a short time around midday and then returning to the outdoors in the early afternoon, staying until dark. Two days were the exception; these were the two days I traveled to Shenandoah National Park for morning shoots.

I photographed this young buck in Pennsylvania during a light rain Friday morning. The rain arrived here Thursday morning and stayed with us until late Saturday evening.

Looking at this young buck I think of how risky life for him is at this time. Archery season, although closed now was open for six weeks. Pa’s archery season now extends well into the rut. Archery hunting interest is much higher than it was in years past when the season ended before the rut began. Poachers are also busy killing this year’s crop of deer. Each evening as dusk falls lone rifle shots echo through the valleys and against the mountainsides. There is no doubt that the majority of these shots are directed at deer as they enter the fields to feed. Some feel that it is their “right” to kill the nice bucks before the “city people” arrived for legal hunting season. Others are farmers who feel that they have raised the deer and have a “right” to kill the big buck before anyone else can get to him. Others from outside of our area will drive slowly along our country roads, shoving the rifle out the window and killing whenever and wherever they have the opportunity. Finally then we have the “Jacklighters” who shine the deer with powerful spotlights shooting at them all hours of the night.

In just two weeks the Pa rut photography will end with the beginning of the annual rifle season. Only a very few fortunate individual bucks ever live to become mature and those that do find their life more and more risky as their racks increase in size.

Life for this buck is tenuous at best and in all likelihood will soon end

Friday, November 14, 2008

10pt: Shaded

I first observed this nice ten point Tuesday morning when he followed a doe past the Big Meadows Visitor Center and into the meadow shortly after the sun rise.

With the buck positioned to the east I had strong backlighting to contend with. This image was captured when the buck paused for a moment in a spot of shade.

My current banner is of this same buck backlit while the November 11th post is of him under strong direct light. Check out the difference the lighting angles make.
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Thursday, November 13, 2008

SkyWatch on Skyline Drive

Blue skies and distant mountains provided the backdrop for this self-timer shot.

We created this image at one of the many overlooks along Skyline Drive in Virginia’s beautiful Shenandoah National Park.

For more Sky Watch and to join the fun click HERE

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tuesday Morning: First Buck of the Day

The alarm jangled raucously at 2:15am. Bleary eyed, I stumbled from a warm bed to confirm that my wife was also aware that our short night of sleep was past.

By 3:00 am we were leaving our driveway with the wheels rolling south, south for a morning photo shoot in Shenandoah National Park.

Arriving at Big Meadow by 6:35 we were in time to meet Willard & Billie along the drive in front of the visitor center. They informed me that rutting action had taken place in the meadow the previous evening, but at the time only a few scattered doe were visible.

Within an hour this nice ten-point arrived pushing a doe. Another Shenandoah Rut Morning had begun.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Spitler Knoll Buck

Willard & I encountered this magnificent whitetail early Saturday morning in a small opening near Spitler Knoll.

The buck was standing under a small tree with his doe only a few yards away. With the low light levels and my slow 100-400mm lens; I shot this image at ISO 800 with a 1/25th second shutter speed. Within two minutes of getting the tripod set up the doe left the meadow and the buck followed.

This is the largest Whitetail Buck I have ever photographed. Now if only I can catch him on another occasion in good photographic light.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Rutting Mishap

The Whitetail mating season is not without danger for the bucks. Injuries do occur when these strong opponents engage in combat. Facial injuries are common along with gouges to the neck and shoulder areas along with flank wounds when the bucks separate.

When I first observed this buck he was thrashing his head against a tree in an attempt to remove the antler dangling about his head. As you can see his skull is fractured. The antler is still attached to the pedicel with the pedicel being held in place by skin. As we observed him it was abundantly clear that the dangling antler was annoying him considerably.

I remember one buck some years ago that was found dead with a wound to his chest. The wound appeared to be that of a rifle bullet. Suspecting it to be the work of a poacher we opened the buck in search of a bullet. The wound channel had pierced the chest ending in the opposing shoulder. A metal detector gave no indication of metal. As the buck was found in a back field well away from any road we arrived at the conclusion that the fatal wound had been delivered by another buck.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Skylined on Skyline Drive

Willard & I visited Shenandoah National Park this morning in search of rutting whitetails. As we traveled down Skyline Drive before dawn numerous bucks crossed the road in our headlights. It was obvious that the rut was on.

After an early morning encounter with a massive buck near Spitler Knoll the does arrived from the west side of the mountain followed by this young buck. With the colorful morning sky for a background, the buck posed for a moment before continuing on in his quest for a mate.

The buck action was quite brisk upon our arrival but, died off early. Over the next few days I will be sharing more of the images captured on this adventure.

For more Camera Critters click HERE

Thursday, November 06, 2008

SkyWatch: Evening Rays

A passing frontal system creates dramatic beauty in the late afternoon sky

For more Sky Watch click HERE

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Pa Elk Rut Revisited

As I sat here tonight looking through recently captured images my mind drifted back to my adventure a month ago shooting the Pennsylvania Elk Rut.

The 2008 Elk Season is now underway. Tags were drawn for seventeen antlered (bulls) and twenty eight antlerless (cows). The season began Monday morning and will conclude Saturday evening.

The success rate of this hunt typically is nearly 100% but then how could we expect any different when so many of these animals are habituated to humans from the nearly constant contact with viewers, photographers etc.

On the morning I captured this image I overheard an individual ask a local elk guide how that he could sleep at night. The guide shrugged his shoulders stating that each elk hunt was $2000 bucks.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Migrants: Ruddy Duck

The autumn waterfowl migration is underway in our area. Many species of ducks pass through our area but never stay long.

While fishing I noticed a small flock of ducks resting in the middle of the lake. Upon approaching with the boat I was surprised to find that it was a mixed flock of at least four different species and this little female was the only ruddy duck present in the entire flock.

Monday, November 03, 2008


Nearly every waking moment of every day we are faced with choices; what to wear, what to eat, where to go, etc. Some choices are inconsequential while others have a lasting impact upon our lives and the lives of others. Our choice of a mate ranks right up there at the top while our choice of career path is not far behind.

Tuesday November 4th we as a nation must make a choice. While we are not faced with as many options as this little Tufted Titmouse in choosing its next seed, the importance of this choice will have a lasting impact upon our lives and upon the lives of people all around the globe.

With this election we will make history. At the end of the day we Americans will either have elected our first African American President or our first Woman VP. Either way it will be a first, the choice is ours. Now, lets VOTE!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Getting Close: Tufted Titmouse

The Tufted Titmice and White-Breasted Nuthatches have been swarming to the sunflower heads. They have become so acclimated to human presence that Willard and I can photograph them from only a few feet away.

This image as well as the White-Breasted Nuthatch in my banner was shot from about 10 feet with the 100-400mm lens.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Perfect Seed

A White-Breasted Nuthatch seems to have found the perfect sunflower seed and is proudly showing it off.

Moments later a Nuthatch posed on a branch overhanging the sunflower head providing the image I used in my new blog header.

For more Camera Critters visit our host Misty Here