Extra Special Good

Photograph of a Mule Deer Doe - Image Colorado
Mule Deer Doe in Snow

I’ve been doing a bit more wildlife photography lately. Recent snow here in Colorado presents new opportunities for photographs.

I’ve been working in Rocky Mountain Arsenal more this month. The main intent is to find bison photos, which are good sellers. Rocky Mountain Arsenal has bison, however, lately they’ve been uncooperative (at least when I’ve been there) by staying at a distance. It’s a hit and miss proposition with that endeavor.

RMA offers other wildlife photo opportunities though. The place is crawling with deer. Mule deer and White-tailed deer are fairly abundant there and there is enough variety of landscape that if one is patient and perseveres, one can generally get a few good shots.

I was out again yesterday (Thursday) and unfortunately, due to the snow, the 10 mile back loop was closed to entry. I don’t recall ever going there before and finding a locked gate. This restricted the hunt to a smaller area than normal, and that also means that you aren’t going to get much Bison action as the Bison are normally more accessible on that back loop. The real killer was I could see the bison through the gate and they were hanging out in an area nearby, with nothing but fence to shoot through. Fences between you and the animal don’t really make for good shots, so all I could do was bitch and moan to myself.

Fortunately, they opened the back loop gate shortly after noon. The bad news was the Bison had moved off and once again were not anywhere near being close enough to photograph.

The problem with deer is that by this time of year, the bucks have mostly separated from the does and youngsters. The does typically hang out near thick cover near water so they can raise their youngsters. The buck reform as small bachelor groups and tend to roam around doing whatever it is they do, but they don’t do it near the females. The bucks are normally found in transit from one location to another, whereas the females and youngsters tend to be stationary, moving only when they perceive a threat or want to browse a different area.

With most of the refuge blocked off from public access, that pretty much left the does as the only accessible photographic subject for most of the day. No point in driving around looking for them in these conditions, the better strategy is to find where a few are hanging out, set yourself up in a good location for getting photos and just sit there and wait. They’ll eventually wander into the frame and more will probably join them at some point.

I spent about 4-5 hours yesterday sitting in two different locations and was able to get a few really nice shots of the does and youngsters.

One is always looking for the behavioral photos. I try to avoid shots of deer eating grass. Too common and uninteresting. I also skip the butt shots. A lot of times, wild animals will point their butts at you. It’s their body language that says “I know you are there and if you mess around, we’re out of here.”

I frequently preach that you don’t photograph the south end of a north bound animal. Butt photos don’t sell.

In the hierarchy of deer photographs, buyers normally go for photos of bucks. Big bucks with nice racks doing buck stuff. Doe photos do sell though. The only caveat is that the doe photos need to be extra special good.