Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The First Whitetail Bucks Of Autumn Appear

I am not used to going for long periods without seeing whitetail bucks near my Pennsylvania home, but that is what has happened since late August.  At one point in the summer I did find  a bachelor group of bucks and saw them on several occasions, but I only saw one decent buck in the area where I spend most of my time and he vanished on the night of August 23.  I had been seeing this buck each day in both morning and evening.  I  also found a dead fawn on the following day. While recently killed it had been eaten enough by vultures that I could not tell if a bullet wound was the cause of death, but the combination of this and the disappearance of the buck strongly indicated poaching.

Usually I see bucks on a regular basis throughout the summer and by early September a few strange ones appear.  A few settle in and make the area their home range, but most visit only a time or two or else return at widely spaced intervals.  This did not happen this year and it was not until Saturday morning that I had the opportunity to photograph a buck and he was very small.

First Buck Of The Autumn
I usually consider that the pre-rut begins after the velvet is shed in late August and early September, with the full-blown rut beginning in late October or early November.  Whatever the case this young buck had a swollen neck and an aggressive attitude and wasted no time in chasing does about the meadow.

The next day brought the sighting of a much larger buck, but I concentrated on taking video and did not succeed in capturing him with the still camera until he returned two mornings later.

6 Point Buck Does Lip-Curl
 This buck was very interested in the does also and at times chased them around the meadow.  I was able to capture him doing the lip-curl, which is one of my favorite poses of them when I am documenting rutting behavior.

On the morning between the sighting of the small three point and the second sighting of the six-point, a much larger buck appeared briefly and he too did the lip-curl.  The photo below is actually a still captured in my video editing program from video footage taken with the Canon T3i and the 100-400mm L lens at 400mm with the 3x crop function engaged (a small spike is also in the photo with him).    These bucks were at least 175 yards away, so this serves to illustrate what one can do with the T3i and the 3x crop mode.  In my opinion this makes it very usable as a long range video camera for wild, wary, whitetails.

Eight Point and Spike At Long Range
Today was cloudy and mild with warmer temperatures and not one buck appeared.  Hopefully with the next shot of brisk fall weather more will be seen.  Many times, the very largest bucks do not appear until during the peak of the rut and in most cases they are much more shy than the younger animals. None of the bucks pictured here are considered large for even this area of Pennsylvania where bucks are not noted for their antler mass, but I would suspect that a high percentage of the bucks killed are no larger than the eight point pictured and quite a few are much smaller.

Pennsylvania has had antler restrictions for several years and in our area a buck must have three or more points on one antler to be legal.  A tine is considered a point if it is at least one inch long from the base to the tip, and the main beam is counted as a point regardless of length.  In some areas of the state the animal must have at least four points on one antler.

While some are very upset by antler restrictions, I have noted a marked increase both in antler size and the number of bucks surviving hunting season.  Before antler restrictions, it was not common to see bachelor groups of bucks in the summer, but now it is fairly commonplace. To be successful in seeing them; however, one has to be out there at the crack of dawn or as dusk is falling to see them in most cases.

Originally posted at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer.


Tom Ham said...

Another nice post! Awesome shots from so far away. I'll keep checking in to see your photos, thank you for stopping by mine, glad you enjoyed. My wife doesn't let me take our "good camera" out into the bush with me, dropped too many electronic devices into the stream or out of the tree stand, lol. Thanks for the snow geese update, on the calendar!
I like the antler restrictions, in my grandfathers time they didn't exist, but i'm a younger guy and it shows me management in action, right or wrong, at least we're thinking, we're trying...

Anonymous said...

I really appreciate these photos. I hope the deer are still safe and enjoying life in Pennsylvania. It has turned cold here in Ohio. I need a blanket at night.

Kekiinani said...

Ah soo cute. Lovely photos. As always I totally enjoy viewing and reading your blog. One of these days I am hoping to make it to your side of the world. Aloha, Renee :)