Saturday, June 4, 2011

Camera Critters: Whitetail Bucks And Fawns At Shenandoah National Park

Fishers Gap Overlook: Shenandoah National Park
 1:30 Thursday morning and the alarm was blaring.  After less than four hours of sleep, it was difficult to arise and face the day.  Even though wildlife photography is my favorite activity I could muster little enthusiasm for the 150 mile drive to Shenandoah National Park, where I hoped to arrive at dawn.  This is a favorite whitetail deer photography spot and the main goals for the day were to photograph newborn fawns, bucks in velvet, and the superb mountain scenery.  I hurried to the home of retired PGC maintenance supervisor, Billie Cromwell's to pick him up, and by 2:30 we were on our way down I 70, 522 and then I-81.  My morale improved as the trip progressed and we arrived at the Thornton Gap entrance at dawn as planned.  We saw a few deer along the drive as day was breaking, but Big Meadows is usually the hotspot--at least at this time of year, so we continued on our way.

Several people were in the meadow attempting to photograph fawns when we arrived, but they were meeting with little success as there was probably less deer present than I can ever recall in early June.  At this point only two fawns were visible and both were in a situation where we would have had to interfere with other photographers to get into action.

Deer Walk Past Photographer
We drove past the meadow to Milam Gap, but saw nothing of interest there, so we returned to the meadow, parked in the main parking lot, shouldered our equipment, and walked an edge of the meadow where only one other photographer was working.  This part of the meadow has yielded a lot of whitetail photographs in past years, so we were optimistic.  Suddenly we saw the backs of two deer over a ridge and upon moving closer, found that they were bucks. Neither were exceptional, but the largest has the potential to grow a respectable rack.

Shenandoah Whitetail Buck:
By the time that we were done photographing the bucks, most of the deer had left the meadow and no fawns were visible.  We were somewhat discouraged and  decided to  drive back to Thornton Gap in hopes of seeing something on the way, but then miracle of miracles two fawns stood up and began nursing.  One was too far away, but the other did present an opportunity. By the time we had the equipment ready, the fawn stopped feeding, and the doe began moving through the meadow with the fawn following, but our luck turned for the better when she suddenly stopped and lay down, and  the fawn turned and walked directly toward us. Billie was better prepared to handle the situation than I, as he was using  the Canon 100-400mm  and could zoom out to better compose his photographs if the fawn kept closing the distance, while I had a 7D and  300mm F2.8 with 1.4 extender  attached.  Thankfully the fawn did hesitate to nuzzle the trunk of a pine tree, then moved a bit closer and paused in a clump of grass, which give me a chance to take some photographs.

Fawn Nuzzles Charred Pine Tree Trunk
Whitetail Fawn Prepares To Lie Down

It walked even closer, and I frantically removed the extender, but by the time I was ready for action, it had lain down in a clump of blueberry bushes. The head was visible for awhile, but then it lowered it to the ground and was hidden so well that someone walking by would not have had an inkling that a fawn was there.
Natural Camouflage: The Fawn Was Invisible When It Lowered Its' Head
With this, we declared the morning to be a success and head for Thornton Gap and home. On the way, we saw a bachelor group of 4 or more bucks, at least two of which were larger than the one we photographed in the meadow. We got no photographs of them, but it brought the morning to a successful conclusion.  We were back in Fulton County shortly after noon, and that evening I was afield, looking for fawns near home.

For more Camera Critters photographs,  Click Here!

Originally posted at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill


DeniseinVA said...

Marvelous!!! Big Meadows is only about a 45 minute drive away from our home and we go there often during the year. We have always been lucky at seeing the deer but it's been a long time since I went up there to see the fawns. Thank you for giving me this chance through your outstanding photos.

Anonymous said...

Wow - what wonderful close-ups!

Tammy said...

awwww...I was out this the rain...looking for fawns and some velvet. I saw some velvet, but no fawns yet. Beautiful shots!

LivingSoAbundantly said...

Incredible photos! I especially like the one with the pine tree. ;) You should enter these in a photo contest.

Nikki - Notes of Life said...

Wonderful shots. They're such beautiful creatures :)

Unknown said...

Some great close ups!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

Michelle said...

Incredible captures. I love the one of the white tail peering through the grass!!!

Anonymous said...

Bob and I were on Skyline Drive on Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. We saw three deer, including one fawn, that crossed the road. I got pictures of two of the deer, but not the fawn.

Anonymous said...

LOVED all your pictures!

eileeninmd said...

Fantastic shots of the deer. The fawns are adorable!

eileeninmd said...

Fantastic shots of the deer. The fawns are adorable!

V.L. Locey said...

Those shots of those fawns are just glorious!!

Unknown said...

We just returned from there a few minutes ago. Went down Friday and had a great time at Meadow on Friday evening with the exception of the rude photographers that believe they have to walk up to the does and fawns and then spook them. Saw some bucks as well as a great one. Saturday morning was a very good day with about a dozen fawns in the meadow. This morning delivered a different experience.

We had a fawn bed in front of us and watched three or four more be tucked away by the mothers and the mothers quickly departed. Soon a coyote came sniffing the meadow and we watched close at hand while it killed two fawns--it devoured one and left the other to lay.

beautiful pictures Willard!


Peggy said...

Wow, what a day! To get so close to a fawn, or shall I say, a fawn get so close to you is magical!

Anonymous said...

Excellent photography.