Article & photos by Jim Baker © 2016
I have a regular routine for Sunday mornings. Most of my life I have had to get up early. Now that I am old and do not have to get up, I still wake up early. This gives me time to do what I really want to do – and that is to go out and take some pictures while Sue gets up and gets ready for church.
We have a recreation area about ten minutes from our house where there is a lake, horse trails, lots of birds, and a good deer herd. Of course, there is no hunting. My usual practice is to go before dawn to photograph a sunrise. Then when it is light with a warm sun, I look for critters. This place has about seven or eight miles of blacktop road that goes through timber and fields between fishing villages. At my time of day, there is very little traffic.
This day I had driven around a bit after sunrise and found nothing. I was going downhill when I looked west on top of another hill and saw this light colored, wide-racked buck jump into the air. I thought he was jumping a fence, but in mid-air he turned like a basketball player shooting a backward dunk. There was tall grass and trees where he came down and he disappeared.
This was late November near the end of rut. I know the bucks in the area. This majestic, athletic creature had to be a visitor. My mind was in a whirl.
I have to find him.
How am I going to find him?
Probably he was with a doe!
The road turned from west to north then turned back again. There he was! He was a long way off, but still in my area.
I drove west, watching all the open spots. The road ended. I turned around and drove back east but saw nothing. I’m driving very slowly and searching the hillside for some movement. I go around a corner where there is timber and there is a little spike buck. That makes me think there is something going on in the neighborhood. I turn around and go back west again.
I’m looking at a tree that has a log beneath it. I back up. Is that really a log? I stop and wait. In a moment or two the log moves. Then the deer raises his head and moves forward behind a dirt bank that is covered with weeds.
He is gone again.
He must be following a doe.
I will drive to the other end of the dirt bank and I will photograph him when he and the doe walk out. I park with my window facing where I think they will walk out into the opening.
After waiting ten to fifteen minutes, I turn around. I drive back to the spot where I saw Romeo walk behind the dirt bank. I need to see behind the dirt bank. Now I break the law. I drive onto the mowed grass and up the hill, and along a fence for about 300 yards. I’m searching the low spot behind the dirt bank on my right, with no results. Turning right, looking out the driver’s side window, I can see antlers coming up through the weeds. Romeo is lying down resting. I take a couple of pictures of his antlers.
This time waiting is exciting. I know that at some time he will get up. I know that I am close enough to get a good picture. I’m a bit worried that someone may see my pick-up where no vehicle should be.
After some waiting time, I see that Romeo is a bit restless. He raises his head and stares. He is not staring at me, but to the south. I look to the south and I see another buck approaching. This buck I know. I took his picture last week. He is a lot smaller than Romeo.
Romeo now stands up and walks toward the local buck. Now I am really excited. I think I’m going to get to photograph a real live fight out in the woods.
This does not happen. The local champion took one look toward Romeo and turned and walked away. Romeo walked a bit farther and stood under a tree. The sun is shining now and I’m concerned about getting good pictures. Part of his head and body are in the shade with some sun spots shining through. He wants to keep his head up with part of his antlers in the tree limbs.
After I take several shots of him under the tree, he starts to walk north. The problem now is that Romeo is the same color as the background.
I take a few shots as he walks back toward the spot where he was lying when I drove up here. He looks at me for a minute or so and then lies down. I take another picture of his antlers as they push up higher than the weeds. I back up some. I drive back down the hill to the black top. I believe only one car went by while I was up on the hill.
My thoughts now are that buck deer get very tired during rut. They may stay with a doe for twenty-four hours, constantly keeping her in sight. It is estimated that a buck may lose twenty to forty pounds during the breeding season.
Man, I have to hurry to get to church on time.
(Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of articles presented at the Writers Forum during RMOWP’s 2015 conference.)