19
Apr
12

Whitetail Deer: Speaking Whitetail

A few years ago, I’d purchased a digital camera from Kodak.  A little point and shoot.  A nice camera that took good photos.  I managed to get some nice photos, and, because I enjoy hiking, I decided to take the camera with so I could take and possibly share the photos of the places and animals I’d see along the way.  The first photos of deer weren’t very good.  So I asked a friend of mine who is a professional photographer what I could do to get better pictures.  Some of you have heard this story before but others haven’t, so it bears repeating.  I had hoped for some insight on the inner workings of a camera or how light can be manipulated for better pictures.  Her answer was a bit disappointing.  It wasn’t really an answer, it was actually a question.

She asked, “Can you get closer?”  She had a habit of dumbfounding me when I least expected.

So I spent the next couple of years learning how to get closer to deer and began noticing whitetail mannerisms.  The foot stomp, the snort, the flick of their tail, and if you’ve ever seen a whitetail run, you know exactly why they’re called whitetail.  If you haven’t let me know and I’ll dig through my photos and find some so you can see why we call them whitetail deer.

Last weekend I had found a spot near the lake which allowed the opportunity to get some really nice bird shots.  Especially cranes, geese and eagles.  I’d be there right now if it weren’t raining and the tornado sirens hadn’t sounded.  Anyway, after sunset, I packed up and started to walk out.  I noticed some raccoons in a tree and stopped to take some lowlight shots, and then continued on toward my car, when I spotted a large whitetail deer.  The deer was about a hundred and ten yards away.  Not a very good range for my camera, especially in lowlight.  So I dialed up the ISO setting to something like three thousand and decided to try and get some shots.  A high ISO setting will allow the camera to capture more light and with the f stop set at the very lowest number of my lens at 400mm, I knew the shots would be somewhat grainy, but I fully expected to get a good shot.

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I’ve taken many photos of the deer at Lake Kegonsa and have learned a lot about deer mannerisms because of those photo experiences.  So when I saw this deer I figured what the heck, I’ll try to mimic their mannerisms.  What’s the worst that could happen?  The deer would run away and I would continue to my car.  I used a combination of two of their mannerisms and this deer first perked up its head and then began moving closer.

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All the while this deer kept getting closer, I kept adjusting and shooting.  While the deer moved deeper into the trees the light kept getting worse and most of the shots turned out blurry because of the fading light.  But I kept shooting because the deer was getting closer.

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Eventually I realized the deer was bringing the whole family with.  I’ve seen this kind of behavior before.  When a yearling or fawn takes the lead like this yearling, that’s a sign that the buck is near.  The young ones tend to be overconfident when the dominant male is around.  That’s when I began to suspect I was actually shooting a buck.

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Which led to the foot stomp.  The buck will stomp the ground as he is with his left foot.  One stomp is a warning both to me and the family.  He’s warning me that I’d better not try anything funny, and he’s warning the family that this might be a dangerous situation.  My response to his foot stomp caused him to walk even closer.

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At this point I really believed I was shooting a buck, but at this time of year, when they don’t have antlers, there really is only one way to tell, which I believe is why they walk toward you at an angle like this.

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So you can see that he is, indeed, a buck.

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He walked a few feet closer and stopped.  He is now about thirty yards away from me, having closed about eighty yards to get a better look.  Having demonstrated his bravery to any watching female, he snorted the command for everyone to run away and they did.  With the light being so low and me already pushing the camera’s lowlight capabilities to their extreme the shots of them running are a blurry mess.

So in the passed few years, I’ve learned how to get closer to the deer and I’ve also learned how to get the deer to move closer, and so I can now say, I speak whitetail.

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4 Responses to “Whitetail Deer: Speaking Whitetail”


  1. 1 Sofia
    April 19, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    You not only speak whitetail….you speak it beautifully!

  2. 2 Randy Roberts
    April 19, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    Thank you.

  3. April 19, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    Delightful AND informative!

  4. 4 dave kilner
    November 10, 2012 at 8:12 am

    Just recently a deer came up to my house and has been eating cracked corn from a low feeder. When it came face to face with our cat it went into the foot stompping ritual. This seemed to deter the cat from coming any closer.


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