Sunday, November 30, 2014

Rut Photography Ends in a Bang

As daylight creeps across the Pennsylvania landscape the sound of gunshots will be heard in the more rural areas.  Firearms deer season will open with antlered deer being legal statewide and antlerless being legal in a few management areas.  While Monday morning will be the beginning of "deer season" for the firearms hunters it will signal the end of photographing the whitetail rut.

The whitetails two most important defensive tactics are stealth and speed with this racing buck illustrating the latter.
Thousands of hunters across the state will fill their tags tomorrow while many will return to home or camp with the story of the deer they missed.  Along with the successful kills and the misses will be a significant number of deer wounded and unrecovered.    
A casualty from and earlier year, this old buck actively participated in the 2014 rut even though his left front leg was missing.   For any hunters reading this please remember, Safety First!  Be sure of your target, make sure you have a safe backstop, and choose your shot carefully.  Remember once fired a bullet is a lethal missile that cannot be recalled.  

Friday, November 28, 2014

Death in the Outdoors

The seemingly endless cycle of life goes on mostly unnoticed by today's modern humans.  We are so insulated from reality by our society and technology that most Americans no longer have any connection to the source of their food.  While backyard gardens are making a resurgence, the rearing and home butchering of meat animals is practiced by a comparative few.  I dare speculate that few people who sat down yesterday for a Thanksgiving dinner gave a second thought to the fact that a real live turkey with thoughts and feelings was killed to make their feast possible. 
However in the outdoors the animals must deal with the cycle of life on a first-hand individual basis as shown in the following photographs.   
While driving a back country road Thursday morning I first noticed a raven feeding on something in the fresh fallen snow.  As I began approaching, the story of the nights event was spelled out in tracks and blood stains.

A fawn, one which was either sickly or born late judging from its small size, had been pulled down by coyotes.  The snow told the story of where it was first pulled down, regained its feet and moved a few yards before being taken down the second and final time.  The remainder of the blood stains were where it was dragged as the coyotes fed on its small body.

I have heard a lot of people complain about coyotes killing deer and some will view the photos shown here and condemn the coyotes.  While coyotes do kill some deer I have rarely had the opportunity to view their kill sites.  Unlike human hunters which harvest the biggest and the best, coyotes kill the frail, the weak, the ill, and the very young.  I cannot help but think that the selection practiced by the coyotes and other predators is beneficial to the deer herd as a whole, unlike the selection practiced by humans.    

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Season's First Snow

Today the first snow of the season blanketed our area.  While areas to our north have been inundated with unusually heavy lake effect snow in the past weeks, Fulton County is located too far south to be significantly affected.
When I looked out the door this morning a little before daylight the first big wet flakes were splattering on the deck.  Throughout the morning the huge flakes continued to fall, clinging to everything they touched.  By late morning the electricity was flickering frequently and the power lines stretched under the weight of the soggy, sticky, snow and only spending a few minutes outdoors unprotected was sufficient to soak your clothes completely through.
 Though I was unsuccessful locating any rutting bucks, at least this doe posed nicely for her portrait.

The cows gathered at the hay feeder do not seem to mind the snow building up on their backs.

And a pair of snow covered leaves still clinging to a dogwood tree makes an interesting composition.

While winter is still nearly a month away, with the snow here it feels as if winter has already arrived! 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Poke Weed: More Than a Perch

Dead poke weed is a favorite of mine for providing photogenic perches for winter bird photography however poke is also a good wildlife forage plant as well.
In casual conversation with my brother, he mentioned that a fellow photographer had noted that he had never seen anything eat poke.  I began to think of what I had observed and photographed in the past.  While I have observed a few different species of bird eating poke berries the below photos document both deer and a cardinal utilizing the plant.  While I have never seen a deer eating green poke leaves I have watched many times as they stripped a plant bare of its dead leaves during the winter months.
Here a doe eats poke berries that are beginning to shrivel after having been killed by an earlier frost.
A molting male cardinal sits on a poke branch, his bill stained by the plump ripe fruits.
 And a whitetail buck nibbles poke berries that have just ripened in the late summer.


So while poke does make great perches for bird photography, it is also a good natural food source as well.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Images from the Rut

With the whitetail rut in full swing I took off work this week.  Each morning and evening was spent watching for bucks and while I was not able to put any outstanding bucks in front of the camera there was enough activity to make the time enjoyable. 
I do miss those days of photographing the huge bucks of Shenandoah National Park but sadly those days are over and the deer herd is being "managed" by destroying what was possibly the very best place in the eastern US to photograph large bucks.  Whether one agrees or disagrees with what the National Park Service has done and plans on doing in the future make no difference, the incredible whitetail photograph at SNP is finished.  For a more in-depth look at the SNP situation click here.
Below are a few of the 2014 rut images I have gotten to date.  From chasing to threatening to posing with a freshly broken antler, the bucks of 2014 like there predecessors are busy ensuring the next generation of whitetail fawns.