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Posts Tagged ‘buck’

This little buck seemed more curious than fearful when he spotted me on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. He continued to forage in a marshy area for a while before he finally disappeared from sight.

I know that we have a herd of White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) on the wildlife refuge, though I see deer only on rare occasions. This little deer seemed to be alone and I was really struck by the shape of his antlers. It looks to me like they might be his first set of antlers, though I confess to knowing almost nothing about the stages of development of a deer.  The shape of the antlers reminds me of photos that I have seen of several species of antelope in Africa.

white-tailed deer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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As I scanned a field this morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I suddenly became aware of a pair of eyes staring back at me from the high vegetation. We shared a couple of moments of eye-to-eye contact before the handsome buck turned around and disappeared from sight.

There is an overabundance of White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in our area and as part of an effort to maintain the deer herd at a healthy level compatible with planned habitat goals and objectives, the wildlife refuge will be closed for several days in December for deer hunting. I know that topic of deer hunting is controversial to some, but the unfortunate alternative would be deer starving to death or being hit by cars as they seek to forage elsewhere. Still, it’s a little hard for me emotionally to look at this beautiful animal with the knowledge that someone else might soon be shooting at him with a gun rather than with a camera.

White-tailed Deer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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These images are disturbing, especially the first one. They show the harsh reality of the struggle for survival for wild creatures, even in the relatively comfortable confines of a suburban marshland park.

For the second time this winter, I stumbled upon a dead deer in a remote area of my the marsh when I take many of my wildlife photos. (I documented the earlier sighting in a posting that I titled “The Buck Was Stopped Here.”) This time, the skeleton was relatively intact and I was surprised to see that it was another buck. I am still baffled about the cause of his death. Predators? Starvation?

As a photographer and as a human, I struggled in deciding how to present this subject in photographs. I knew that I was not going to remove the body far from where I found it, so I had to settle for a relatively cluttered backdrop. Was it better to show the whole body, as I did in the third photo and keep death at a distance? Should I photograph it to look like the deer had fallen asleep and died peacefully, as the second shot suggests, the way we treat death at a funeral home?

I decided that my best shot was the one in which I forced the viewer essentially to look death in the face directly, by focusing directly on the deer’s now empty eye socket. Death is a reality that can’t be avoided. The photo is a bit macabre, I know, but it speaks to me of life and of death, of the passing of one of God’s creatures.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Hiking through a remote area of my local marshland park yesterday, I came upon the skull of a dead deer with some impressive-looking antlers. I don’t know much about deer, but the antlers are enough to tell me that it was a buck and, if I understand the counting system right, it was a six-point buck  (three on each side). Initially I saw only the skull, but when I investigated the marsh grass in the surrounding area, I saw some of the larger bones of the deer.

The White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in the park don’t have many natural predators, so I can’t help but wonder what caused this buck’s demise. There are coyotes in the park, so I guess that is a possibility. At certain times of the year, archers also shoot deer and I have been told that police sharpshooters sometimes hunt deer at night, but my understanding is that they try to recover the bodies and turn the meat over to homeless shelters. Whatever the case, the animals and birds of the park had picked the bones clean.

I took these shots primarily to record my find, not to make any kind of artistic statement. I used a couple of elements in the area where I found the skull to prop it up so that I could photograph some of the details of this once beautiful animal.

deer_skull1_blogdeer_skull2_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Usually when I see a deer, it turns and runs away, sometimes stopping to gaze back at be from a distance just beyond the range of the lens that I have on my camera at that moment. Recently, however, I encountered a deer that seemed content to look at me as I looked at him. It sounds like a nature photographer’s dream come true.

The biggest challenge was that he was in the middle of a mostly dried-up marshy field full of cattails and other tall growth that made it impossible to get a clear view of the young buck, a white-tailed deer, I believe. It became pretty clear to me that auto-focus was not a viable option—the camera seemed to really want to focus on some arbitrary branch rather than on the deer—so I relied on manual focusing. It was also in the middle of the day, so shadows were pretty harsh. During the protracted period of time that the deer stayed in the same little area, I shot a lot of photos and these are two of my favorites. You’ll note that the deer blends in pretty well with the background. If he had remained absolutely still, I may very well have walked on by without seeing him.

Deer in the cattails

White-tailed buck in a field of cattails

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was attempting to get a photo of a bird in the cattails, when suddenly I noticed that a deer had entered into the frame. Deer are pretty common and I have even seen them in my suburban neighborhood, but I have rarely seen them at a moment when I had my camera in my hand, so I was excited.

The lighting was a little uneven and harsh and it was difficult to get a completely unobstructed shot, but the deer cooperated and paused a few times, allowing me take a few relatively clear shots. I grew up in the suburbs of Massachusetts and even though my deer identification skills are not strong, I am pretty confident that this is a buck, probably a white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus).

I am not a politician, but I am glad to affirm with great conviction,  “The buck stops here.”

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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