Saturday, September 19, 2015

Late Summer Whitetails-Pre-rut Begins

With all the coverage of the changes coming to Winslow Hill, I have not posted anything but elk related material since mid-August.  I like photographing whitetail deer as much or more than I do elk and spend far more time around deer than any other species.  With that being said, most of the bucks in my area are not exceptionally large so I have to travel to find the truly large racks. For many years Shenandoah National Park was my favorite destination for that purpose, but that abruptly ended in 2012 when most of the bucks at Big Meadows were collared and several of the mature bucks vanished.

I only took one trip to SNP this summer, which was in late August, just before the velvet was shed.  We saw a few spikes and does, but deer were very scarce.  The trip was made worthwhile; however, by an encounter with a beautiful buck that had thirteen points if you go by the Boone and Crockett 1" rule, or fourteen if you count any protrusion.

Superb 13-Point: Canon 5D MK III-Canon 100-400mm L IS II@349mm-ISO 400-1/400 sec. f 6.3
Even this buck had not escaped the heavy hand of man as he was fitted with a small ear tag, which was easily removed in Photoshop. Yes, I plead quilty-- I have no compunction at all about cloning out an object on wildlife which should never have been there in the first place.

In the old days I would have returned and attempted to photograph him shedding the velvet, but I stayed home this year and the local bucks were difficult to see. I only filmed a small spike that was in the process of shedding his velvet, but one should not pass up an opportunity just because an animal is young and small. Spikes can make large bucks in later years if they survive.  "Once a spike-always a spike" is simply a statement that is not true in many if not most cases.

Yearling Buck Sheds Velvet: Canon 5D MK III-Canon 100-400mm L IS II@ 300mm-ISO 640-1/320 sec. f  5.0
On a beautiful, cool morning earlier this week I photographed an eight-point that had shed his velvet completely.

8-Point Buck: Canon 5D MK III-Canon 100-400mm L IS II@300mm-ISO 1000-1/125 sec. f 5.0
Pre-rut activity is underway and movement patterns are changing.  I filmed this buck with the GH4 making a scrape and horning tress soon after I took the photo above and have filmed one other buck doing this as well.

The pre-rut will intensify through October until the full-blown rut erupts in late October or early November.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.