All images and text Copyright ÂŠ 2008 Robert Wong all rights reserved
Spring Whitetail by rveWong
Lately I’ve been shooting deer through the window of my house. To avoid breaking the glass and the “No gun fire” bylaws in my neighborhood I’ve been using my camera. Through the window has one huge advantage over skulking around in the bush. The glass eliminates the noise of the clunky camera and the deer don’t run away. In the woods, If you’re far enough away they don’t run off, but just stare at you with suspicion as you try to hoist that huge lens onto your tripod, hey wait a minute, I don’t have that kind of lens. Let's go through that window. Hold on a second, thats how this project started and I expectedto get some cute photos. Real life is upredictable and soon I was on a wild ride as I followed after these deer. Warning: There are some real life images in this photo essay that some may find gruesome. For me these images are more ominous than gruesome but be warned. Note: Consider this a beta release, April 29, 2008 on schedule for SoFoBoMo. Hopefully I will find time to apply some polish. I can be reached at... http://rvewong.wordpress.com/
Day 1, March 31, 20008 It's the last snow fall of the spring and the Deer like to hang around my house. I guess there is more food here in the winter probably because weâ€™re surrounded by coniferous forest. This year there was an unusual amount of snow and it was probably rough on the Deer. I know the deer are having a hard time when they start destroying the shrubs around the house. I happen to have a forty kilogram bag of corn handy and I thought it might distract the deer from my shrubs and reduce the starvation factor.
Day 8, April 7 My wife came home just before dark and scared that skinny guy away, but I noticed he was back within half an hour and continued eating the corn until he faded from view in the failing light. A couple of hours later a pack of something showed up and started making a real racket on the edge of the forest about a hundred yards away. I went outside to see if I could find out how many there were, but the house lights did not provide enough illumination for me to see them. Their howling is just too random for me to guess their number. I stayed up late to make sure my daughter wouldn’t be hassled by those things in the forest when she came home. But not to worry they disappeared or at least the noise stopped and the skinny deer returned to eat the new batch of corn I had put out for him. She pulled up to our house just past midnight and I went outside to make sure all was well. A large animal jumped up about eight feet from the door sending snow flying in a crash of noise. It scared the bejabbers out of me. Then I remembered the corn feeding deer. He should have retired by now, must have been real hungry. Day 9, April 8 The next morning there were no bodies in the driveway so my son seems to have made it to school alright. I'm the man of the house, or at least that's what I tell my wife. My manly duties include investigating creatures of the dark and making sure our kids get to school safely. I’m not really a scaredy cat kind of guy, but being old has only one advantage that I know of, caution. Before setting out I walked to the end of our driveway to retrieve the pike I had made for my kids. The pike is made from five feet of half inch steel rebar sharpened at one end. I made it for my kids so they would be able to defend themselves from wolves, wild dogs and bears while waiting for the school bus in the mornings, or at least go down fighting. Equipped with the kids rusty pike, I set out to the area where the howling was coming from last night. From the noise I figured it was about a hundred yards from the house on the edge of the forest. I knew something wasn’t quite right. Crows were making lots of noise. It wasn’t me that was causing the alarm as the crows were out of sight and couldn't see me. I was glad I had the pike. I find it very difficult to see things like animals in the bush, probably due to their camouflage and just the sheer quantity of imagery that confronts the eye. In the past I have stumbled upon deer skeletons in the forest but usually not until I practically walk on them. So I wasn’t too hopeful of actually finding anything. Still, I should at least be able to check out the spot where the noise was coming from last night. It didn’t take long...
It doesn’t look like the creatures of the night s have finished what they started; we might be in for some more excitement to night. But hold on, what about lunch? With trepidation I peer through the brush in every direction expecting a snarling pack of creatures to be defending their next meal (I think I’ve watched too many TV documentaries). I hope the creatures are sleeping off their shenanigans from last night. How often do they eat anyway? I’m sure they’re not going to like me checking up on them. There’s still nothing in the woods that I can see but that doesn’t mean much. If it doesn’t move I’m not going to see it. Carnivores know not to move when the prey is looking. The crows are still yammering away somewhere out of sight maybe five hundred yards away. It’s comforting to know that they are on the lookout; I hope they know what they are doing. I’ll have to leave them a tip when this is done. No wait, they’ve already been tipped, every garbage day they take their due and leave the rest for my daughter to clean up. My heart is thumping and I’m glad old man caution brought me a pike. The heft of the cold steel has a calming effect on my nerves. I tell myself I shouldn’t be too worried about one creature. Then I remember that last night I could not tell how many thingies were howling, there was definitely a pack. Maybe I should have brought more firepower. I’m trying to hold the camera steady, but it’s not working despite Nikon’s best efforts at vibration reduction technology (Maybe I should switch it into “Dynamic Mode”, those clever Nikon guy’s think of everything). I have to put the pike down. Now, I have a two handed shake and a better appreciation for the work of a war photographer. I hope this isn’t the guy I was photographing yesterday; we were just getting to know each other. Rats, I knew I should have gotten my model release form signed right away. Well, he had at least one good meal. The creatures haven’t got me yet and I’m beginning to calm down and assess the situation better. It appears my boy wasn’t killed here but dragged by the perpetrators a little deeper into the woods for more privacy. It looks that the deed was done just inside the forest here. What’s that, the crows are coming closer and still yammering. My heart beat cranks up to a thumper, it’s time to go. I grab my pike and make a bee line for the house trying not to run, you don’t want to show fear to a carnivore. Note: These next three photos were taken two days later April 10 when my hands had stopped shaking.
Day 10, April 9 The next day at breakfast the deer are behaving as if nothing much had happened last night. They donâ€™t seem to be too bothered by the loss of one of their own. As I eat my porridge I can see eight deer through the window.
Later that day I checked the site of the kill again. The creatures had definitely returned and taken care of their unfinished business by polishing off the carcass. My hands werenâ€™t shaking as badly today and I could almost think clearly. It occurred to me that I should find out if the creatures had messed up one of the deer I had gotten to know with my camera. The uneaten stomach was lying nearby and with a little probing from my handy pike; I was able to reveal a kernel of corn. There is only one place the deer could have eaten that corn and only one conclusion to be drawn. Those dastardly creatures had done in my buddy and left without paying tributes to my pike.
Day 11, April 10 Yesterday’s visit to the site seemed to indicate that the bad thingies had eaten all there was to eat and probably weren’t hanging around. This would be a good time to go out and get some proper photos, ones that captured the emotions I was feeling. But on the other hand, as my wife is fond of reminding me, where there are deer there are bad thingies. I had planned quite the production including using a wheel barrow to carry all the gear, the most important being a tarp to keep me dry. At this time of spring the bush is completely soaking wet, rubber boot time. I stuck my head out the door and the blustery cold wind changed my mind in a jiffy. Go light, get in fast and get out became the new game plan. It was a relief to find that the carcass had not been disturbed from yesterday, no thingies to worry about. My plan to get some low angle shots was going to be difficult without getting wet and covered in mud and blood. It would have been good to have an articulating LCD display on the camera but that wasn’t going to happen. The next best thing was to just hold the camera low, press the shutter and hope. I fired off about fifty shots and went back to the warm computer. The shots were definitely an improvement from the days before even if the framing wasn’t perfect, but they still lacked that sinister mood. Throwing in a little bit of an “S” curve seemed to do the trick. I tried to leave out the blood and guts kind of thing. How do you go about making a scary photo? I’m thinking; get down low and use a bit of silhouetting. On the other hand, I don’t want to be crawling around on my hands and knees when the creatures come back, they might get the wrong idea. Anyone for Desert? I reviewed my photos from the earlier and spotted this poor fellow. He looked like he had just returned from some war zone bringing a clue. The wound on his back gave an idea of the size of the thingies and it was not encouraging. Maybe my wife was right and those bad thingies were still hanging around after all.
Day 13, April 12 Last night a Yearling found the corn, it was too dark to shoot photos but I watched him anyway. He had a nasty wound near his mouth that looked quite fresh. He returned at noon today and posed for a few shots. Half way through his meal he got nervous and left, I think my kids were making too much noise in the house. The look of his wound has changed quite a bit from last night. It does not look as fresh. This leads me to believe that he was probably attacked sometime during the early morning hours of yesterday. He was not with his mother, very strange.
Day 17, April 16 I had an hour to kill today and figured I’d check up on the bones in the forest just to see how they were weathering. To my surprise something had been working them over. There were now two piles of remains and if you can imagine, even less on the bones than before giving meaning to the expression “slim pickings”. There was still no bad smell emanating from the carcass, either nothing to rot or still too cold. That’s about to change as the weather man is predicting 20C this weekend. The perps had kindly moved one pile of bones and fur into a shaft of sunlight just asking for a photo. Everything was so calm and peaceful in the forest (Just the way spring should be) that I thought I’d go back to the house using a route allowing for a quick inspection of the defensive perimeter. Not four minutes into my scouting impersonation when an explosion ten yards in front set me back on my rear end snow flying everywhere and adrenaline blowing out the top of my skull. Some large bird had decided not to wait for me and burst from cover with a roar of all engines at maximum. It went zooming and weaving through the bush off to my right and then a second crash and flying snow as it woke a sleeping deer. I didn’t have any more adrenaline to pay respects to the deer and I certainly wasn’t about to switch my slow methodical forensic photo technique into battlefield photo mode. I retired home empty handed. Day 18, April 17 It was hot today, a good day to check on the woods hoping that enough snow had melted and water drained off to allow easy access. I jumped the gun. There was still too much snow and water, but I wore my winter boots that are water proof up to the ankle so it wasn’t too bad, I could handle some of the snow and water. I had to pass by the kill site just to keep tabs; it had not been disturbed from yesterday. It was starting to smell and flies and ants were having a ball. The ground was dry enough for me to lie down and use the view finder to take a few shots. After standing up I was plastered with dead deer fur, Yuk. Continuing on, I came across a spent crossbow bolt, apparently from some poacher guy, lots of technology in that bolt. There are quite a few frogs croaking now, yesterday there were only two. I think tonight they are going to break the silence of winter with a rush and we will have noisy nights until the snow flies again. I could smell something rotting and tried half heartedly to find it, but was thwarted by the standing water, next time rubber boots. The smell reminded me to pass by a five year old site where a deer had died from starvation. Then a really stupid muskrat. He is bathing in nine inches of standing water, a long way from any safety. I tried throwing a stick into the water in hopes that he would come toward me for a better photo. He just dove under water and tried to hide in the nine inches. I don’t think he is long for this world. If I was a young wipper snapper I think I might have tried to catch him and put him somewhere safe. If only. Day 24, April 23 Yesterday while rooting around in the woods near the first kill site I could smell something but couldn’t find it. Now that the snow is almost gone I went back for another try. Not more than thirty yards away I found the remains of another deer probably killed within a day or two of the first one. I was pretty sure the carnavours had left along with the deer so my nerves were settled and I tried to take some better photos. If you didn’t know what had really happened here these photos might seem kind of cute. Day 25, April 24 Yesterday was hot and with the snow almost gone I resolved to go back to the multiple kills and try to shoot some interesting photos. I put on rubber boots so I could really get in there. Most of the interesting angles were close to the ground. Despite the rubber boots I was not properly prepared. Lying on the ground trying to use the viewfinder for decent composition resulted in getting covered in deer poop and fur. Yuk. I had only covered about half of the interesting stuff when I just had to quit. Standing up I almost fainted, my vision closed down as my head spun with dizziness. Later at home I had to remove all my yucky clothes and run naked into the house for a bath. I don't think I'll be doing that again.
Day 25, April 24 I’ve searched maybe ten percent of my land and found the remains of two deer killed by the forest creatures. I’m not too keen on scouting the rest. If I take a break maybe the bugs will have come out and I can scratch the whole idea. My wife’s ornamental sword, I always wondered if it was of any use. It wasn’t sharp but a quick trip to the shop with a power grinder did the trick. I lost a bit of thumb in the process, only the second time I’ve wounded myself with power tools, not bad. When are they going to make bandages that can be applied with one hand? The plan was to use this sword for protection as I checked up on the doings of the pack. I hoped it would replace my rusty pike. My arms were getting sore from carrying all that rusty weight around. It’s a good idea to do a test run on any critical equipment, so I took the sword to the edge of the woods and whacked a few branches to help clear a path. It removed the first three branches quite nicely but then the whole thing exploded in my hand and fell to the ground. It’s back to my rusty pike and muscle building while I finish off investigating the disapearance of the deer. Finish the job scouting, that’s the refrain passing through my mind. I continued skulking through the woods beginning with the North east corner of my twenty acres loaded down with my rusty pike. That pirate sword sure would have been easier to carry. More evidence was not difficult to find. I scoured the woods following the trail of bits of fur. It’s very hard to actually find the deer carcass using eyes alone. You have to be almost standing on the remains before it suddenly jumps out at you. By now only forty minutes into the search I have to give up. Every time I stand up from shooting a shot at a low angle I almost faint. I have to return home for a break. The deer kill now stands at three. As I approached the house, walking across my front yard I ran into this remnant. Some cheeky carnivore had left me a warning. I hope these guys don’t operate like the mafia.
Day 26, April 25 Yesterday with resolve stiffened out I go again to finish walking the northern line. I get all the way to the back without incident. There is still a lot of spring snow melt and I'm not feeling like getting covered in mud so I leave it for another day. Things are starting to look up, lots of deer tracks and poop but no fur. The woods are really thick with old blow downs and the going is slow, I stop for water and a rest on an old log. Right beside my rear end more evidence that the creatures are not done yet. It takes a while to locate the main feast. I'm still amazed how hard it is to locate the carcass in the woods even when you know it's there. These bones are older and have been picked so clean there is no smell that might give them away. I'm feeling faint again and it's time to go. The kill count now stands at four. How many deer can a pack of creatures eat? This question was on my mind as I started in on the southern part of my land near the beaver dam. Just like yesterday in the north it didn’t take long to run into signs of trouble. Bits of fur and skin were everywhere but I couldn’t locate the carcass. I spent more time looking for this carcass than any other. I can only conclude that it must be in the beaver pond and I’m not going there. The time spent looking wasn’t wasted, I found remnants of a largish bird and some other small animal both recently demised. One worrying aspect of this site is that it is right beside the spot I had sampled a beer and watched the Canada Geese not four days ago. At that time there was no fur on the ground. I moved south into what I would have guessed to be the best area of the woods for deer. Shortly another kill. This is getting to be ridiculous another fifty yards and another kill. Like the previous two this last one is quite fresh. A couple of days ago this must have been a war zone. Our count is now at seven, it must be a big pack of creatures. Back at home my daughter wanted to check out the kills. I led her to the last one I had discovered (number seven) and she immediately started poking around. She has a much stronger stomach for this kind of thing than me. Her curiosity now aroused we had to go and check out number six. At this site with her young eyes she spotted a smaller jaw bone to go with the larger one. It appears that number six was really a pair, parent and bambi, so we are now at a count of eight. The enthusiasm of youth now took over and off she went looking for more. I found myself and Mr. Rusty Pike riding shotgun as she quickly located another fresh kill (number nine) and three older ones. On this outing all photos were pretty nasty, so I’ll leave you with this sign post from a long departed beaver.
Day 27, April 26 Yesterday morning not five hundred yards down the road, another dead deer, this time the forest creatures were blameless. There were no skid marks on the road just plastic from a busted light. The road I live on is only three kilometers long but it is the kind of road you see in BMW commercials extolling the virtues of driving finesse. Every year at least two of these TV watching beamer wanna be’s wind up in the bush beside this road. It’s a great road for an evening stroll if you don’t mind some fool whizzing by at 100 km/hr only two feet from your elbow. Reasonable folk move over to the other side of the road before passing pedestrians. Riding my bike or walking down this country road causes more fear of cars than of wolves, bears and dogs combined.
Day 28, April 27 Chasing creature kills will be a thing of the past. With the kill count reaching nine, I’ve had enough. I’m not going to finish my survey of the deer killed this spring. However last time in the woods with my daughter we came across an interesting totem pole like carving left by the beavers and I wanted to get a decent shot of it in the morning light. Equipped with boots and what not, I tramped over to the spot in the cool morning light. I must have been too sleepy and just couldn’t get into it. I’m not happy with the results, for me there’s just no emotion in the shot. I’ll have to go back and do it again. Standing in the goo trying to think of something to make a decent shot left something wanting and my gaze wandered over to the woods. It was littered with deer parts. Like my eyes, my mind was also wandering. It occurred to me to try and get a shot that might mark the passing of the deer. The woodland stream I was standing in seemed that it could be used to make an appropriate metaphor. A dead branch from a tree easily picked up a tuft of fur and I carefully placed my bit of deer into the stream. In silence it floated peacfully by rotating in the rivelets and ripples reminding me of what was once a gentle Whitetail. I fired off my last few shots and put my camera away.
Spring is rough on the Whitetail deer. This photo essay explores some of the issues. This is the latest, with some fixes of typos etc.