Sunday, November 29, 2015

Deer Season, 2015

 Monday morning, as dawn creeps across Pennsylvania, the ridges and mountains will echo with the crashing booms of gunfire.  Monday marks the first day of the 2015 firearms deer season.

Outsiders are often surprised by the popularity of deer hunting in the rural areas of Pennsylvania. Here in Fulton County the first day of deer season is a local holiday with schools and factories, and many stores closing.

A mature whitetail buck lip curls in the faint light of early morning

An old wounded veteran feeds while standing on three legs.  The injury is probably the result of a poorly placed gunshot.  This is the third year I have photographed him since his injury.   

Deer are affectionate animals  This photo plainly captures the affection between this small family group.

It is with mixed emotion that I greet yet another first day of deer season.  While I do look forward to stocking the freezer with some fresh venison, I hate to see them die.  I well understand that without top level predators to keep the deer numbers in check that hunting is a necessary management tool. What bothers me most are the hunters who take the poor shots and leave wounded animals to suffer needlessly as well as the poachers who disregard the rules.

Deer season for me in years past would begin with the first day of rifle season and last until my tag/tags was filled or the season closed.  Now that first day of rifle signals the end, the end of my whitetail buck photographic season.   While in the past I have pursued whitetails with modern rifles, muzzle-loaders, flintlock, archery and handguns and have been successful with all; I have found that no consumptive deer hunting can begin to compare to the enjoyment I experience hunting Pennsylvania's whitetails with photography gear.

For those of you my readers who will be afield tomorrow; first and foremost, hunt safely, make sure of both your target and backstop, and shoot accurately.  

Friday, November 20, 2015

Thank a Poacher!

A young whitetail buck, hearty, healthy, and bursting with energy was busily engaged in the frantic activity of the rut.  Then his path crossed with that of some poachers.  With a sound somewhat like that of a limb breaking the bow unleashed its deadly dart and a split second later an arrow carrying a broadhead sliced through the upper part of buck's right leg.  Moments later the poachers sped away leaving their damage behind.  Now learning to deal with his disability the buck limps along on three legs and tires easily.  At times he will be seen kneeling to pasture and frequently lying down to rest. 

Will he recover or will he be crippled for the remainder of his life? Only time will tell.     

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Shooting the Rut

November, for the Pennsylvania whitetail enthusiast no other month can compare. November is the month of the whitetail rut.  During the other months of the year the whitetail bucks live their lives in the shadows, staying hidden for the most part while feeding, resting, and just doing what bucks do.  But when the breeding season rolls around suddenly the bucks are on the move, traveling both day and night searching for does, sparring, bluffing, fighting, chasing does, mating with does........does, does, and more does!  Of course its actually all about next year's fawns, but for now the bucks minds centers on just one thing.  Does!

For me, this rut has been like Christmas, Thanksgiving, and all of the holidays rolled into one.  For the first time in my life I have been able to hunt (with camera) the rutting whitetails every day since the first stirrings of the rut became apparent.  Below are a few images from some of the exciting rutting activity I have captured in the past few days.      

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Rutting On A Rainy Day

On a recent rainy day I spent nearly the entire day watching a meadow from the protection of an old hunting shack.  The shack's roof leaked a little but it provided adequate protection from the rain that varied from light drizzle to heavy downpours.  Because of the confined space the use of a tripod and the 600mm lens was out of the question.  The images shown here were all taken with a Canon 60d, Canon 100-400mm lens, supported by sandbags.  The highlight of the day came when an eight point buck mated with a doe as another eight pointer watched from a distance.  Equally as interesting was the little buck with an unusual pink nose who posed for a series of photos during a heavy downpour.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

I Did Not See A Thing All Day!

While processing a few images from the last couple of days of attempting to photograph the ongoing whitetail rut I was reminded of my days as a deputy conservation officer.  One would meet successful hunters, happy with the outcome of their day afield and others who were far less than satisfied with their hunt and ofttimes the entire Pennsylvania Game Commissions deer management program.  It was very common for these unhappy individuals to question "Where are all the deer?" The question frequently peppered with a variety of expletives.  Another commonly heard comment, likewise spiced with expletives was " I didn't see a thing all day!  

As I scrolled through some of my latest images I thought about how sad it is that some people can spend a day afield without seeing anything.  While its quite possible to not encounter the particular species that one is seeking, only a person without an appreciation for nature can spend a day in the outdoors without seeing anything.

The images below are from a recent day afield, a day when I was unsuccessful in my quest for rutting whitetails.    

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Bucks, Bees, Butterflies and Blooms

For the wildlife photographers in my neck of the woods November is the month of the whitetail rut.  The unseasonably warm weather of the last few days has slowed the daytime rutting activity but other unexpected photo opportunities have arisen.   I hope you enjoy viewing this mix of subject from the past few days.