Whitetail Watching, 2019

This is the best time of year to observe deer, especially if quality, open habitats are accessible. Populations are high, deer are preoccupied with eating, and bucks are warming up for the breeding season.

Since eating is the top priority, mixed groups are common and warrant close scrutiny. They’re full of surprises! Variations in sex, age, condition, color and behavior soon appear.

A “bachelor group”, common social behavior in summer; note the tumor on the middle buck

Two bucks in the frame, but my attention is elsewhere!

Early territorial behavior: scent-marking an overhead branch (1 of 2)

A mature buck leaving the hay field for dessert in the adjacent brush lot: wild apples

Bucks are being bucks, while does are parenting. Fawns are weaned, but still need TLC (1 of 3)

Photos by NB Hunter (Aug. 31 – Sept. 5, 2019). All rights reserved.

Deer Watching in Late Summer

Non-consumptive recreation activities associated with white-tailed deer peak in late summer and early fall. Deer feed continuously and are often visible in good light. Fully developed antlers are on full display, more visible than ever while still covered in velvet. Regardless of your recreation choices – binoculars,  conventional cameras, motion-detecting trail cameras, or simply viewing for pleasure – it is the best time of year to observe, appreciate and learn about these magnificent members of the deer family.

PS: These deer are in various stage of molting, a process that insures thermoregulation, and some camouflage as well,  through the seasons. The thin, reddish-brown summer coat is giving way to a thick, dark winter coat that features hollow hair and a thick underfur.

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Photos by NB Hunter (August 30 – September 16, 2017). © All Rights Reserved.

Summer Scenes in Farm Country

Most of my travels take me through rural areas where dairy farms still dominate the landscape. These are priceless visual and ecological resources that attract and support diverse wildlife populations as well as livestock.

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Pigeons and crows are permanent residents, usually seen foraging on waste grain in harvested fields or in spread manure.

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Once or twice a week I sit in the evening near a field of corn, oats or hay to observe wildlife. Most evenings there is a predictable sequence of visitors, starting with groundhogs, does and fawns.

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Small flocks of geese glide into cut hay fields throughout the evening.

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Bucks, especially the seasoned veterans, arrive as the sun leaves the fields and camera gear is nothing more than extra weight.

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The last light of the evening, in the clouds. Somewhere below the cloud, in an open field on the highest hilltop, was the dark silhouette of a huge buck. It was his time.

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Deer Antlers in Velvet

The yearly growth of antlers on White-tailed Deer bucks is noticeable in early summer, even on younger bucks. Triggered by day length and its influence on growth hormones in the pituitary gland, antler development begins in spring and continues through the summer. In this stage, antlers are a mix of cartilage, blood vessels and nerve tissue covered in a hairy skin or velvet, growing at an astonishing rate that may be unequaled in the animal world. Incredibly, these complex structures are transformed into hardened, polished, bone by early fall.

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Buck in early June

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Buck in late June (1 of 3)

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Antler development and size are a function of age, nutrition and genetics. The deer in these photos are probably immature yearlings sporting their first set of antlers, so antler mass will be trumped by the physiological demands of body growth.

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.