Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Whitetail Rut Peaks In PA and SNP

In our area of Pennsylvania, the whitetail rut traditionally peaks around November 12th, and this year is no exception.  This time frame also seems to apply to the whitetails in Shenandoah National Park as well.  Once the Pennsylvania elk rut and elk season is over, I devote most of my time to observing and documenting the local whitetail herd, as well as making frequent trips to SNP.

Shenandoah 9 Point
 Many ask why one goes to SNP when they are a lot of deer in Pennsylvania--at least in spots (a subject of never ending and often bitter controversy).  The long and short of it is that there are few if any areas in Pennsylvania, that are  accessible to the public, where  one can view and photograph whitetails in a setting where the deer are not concerned about human presence, or where the bucks live to reach full maturity. At one time Gettysburg Battlefield was one such spot and I have heard that Valley Forge has or had a similar situation, but a dramatic herd reduction production program was applied to the Gettysburg deer and there was talk of implementing one at Valley Forge as well--not sure if this has happened yet or not.

Bucks appear with increasing frequency as October drifts into early November.  I have noticed that in Pennsylvania, many are animals that have spent the summer elsewhere, and they appear to check on the local doe herd once the rut begins.  A few remain for the duration of the rut, but most only appear for a day or so and then move on.

Whitetail Buck Checks Herd For Doe In Estrus
Mature Doe: The Object Of The Buck's Attention
In SNP there are several bucks that stay near the meadow at Big Meadows, most if not all of the year.  One may photograph these animals from the time the antlers start to grow in the spring, through the summer months, and on throughout the rut, although at times some abruptly vanish when they stray on nearby private land where hunting is permitted, or are killed by poachers who sometimes boldly enter the park to kill wildlife.

Mature Shenandoah Buck Chasing Doe
The SNP bucks posted today are ones that seem to spend most of their life around the Big Meadows complex.  The one above is a wide eight-point, which has been photographed by most who travel to SNP. This fall was one of the best in recent memory at the park, but I happened to be in the wrong place in the wrong time to capture a few of the biggest bucks.  Also I concentrated on video as usual and so much of my best material is captured on that.

The Canon 100-400mm L IS lens is now my favorite DSLR video lens for wildlife at mid to moderately long ranges when light conditions permit its' use, and the 70-200mm F 2.8 is the lens of choice in early morning and late evening.  For stills the 300mm F2.8 is now my favorite, with the 70-200mm F 2.8 being a close second.  I can nail spot-on focus much better with either of these lenses than with the 500mm F4.  The 100-400mm focuses extremely well, but I like the larger apertures of the other lenses and the resulting better control of depth of field and ability to shoot in lower light.  The 500mm F4 is going back to Canon after the fall photography is over to have the focusing system checked out.  I hope this solves the problem, but I am not overly optimistic.

Originally posted at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard HIll.


Ruth Hiebert said...

Amazing pictures of these beautiful animals.

Mr. Jayant said...

good pics..

I learnt the basic photography rules from Mr. Kishore Mamillapalli who is one of the leading wildlife photographers from South Africa. He used to say that “Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder”. If you like what you see on your camera screen, or through the viewfinder, you will like the photograph.

There are some basic photography rules for composition. Once you know these rules, you can use them, ignore them, or break them. Follow your gut, and you will end up with spectacular, sometimes breathtaking results. Kishore is really an astonishing wild life photographer and has a great eye for details..

Unknown said...

Great photos and good explanation of it. The photo of the wide 8 point captures one of the behaviors in a beautiful setting.


V.L. Locey said...

Willard, those are glorious images!

Peggy said...

Thats quite a collection Willard! Nice assortment of images from portraits to full body. Well done!

Brad Myers said...

It was a great rut this year for photography and as always you captured it well. The last photos really captures the what the bucks were all about that week, head down chasing doe's.

I hope we get to see one of your great video compilations from this trip. And I can't wait to see how you and Coy post about that scary 4 X 4. By the way he chased me away the next day again and Billy got to see what he was like that day also.

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