Last week I headed south for a few days of deer hunting on my Dad’s property in South Carolina. I figured there’d be plenty of opportunities to take photos, and dragged along my DSLR and a few lenses to get the best results.
The first morning was foggy, but gorgeous. And while the 50-60 geese that spend the night in our pond are getting to be a problem, they provided a nice photo opportunity as they swam off in the fog.
I decided to sleep in and head out to the deer stand a bit after sun-up. While I didn’t shoot anything, I did see several deer including this young buck.
Last year there was a survey of the deer population on my Dad’s property. Several trail cameras were placed throughout the property and corn was placed at the camera sites to attract deer. The cameras were active over a period of several weeks, and the photos they took were evaluated at the end of that time to determine the health and size of the population. As it turns out, our deer population is very healthy – five times the average population density for the area. Some of that is because we’ve been very particular about the bucks shot we shoot. If a buck doesn’t have antlers with at least 8 points that are at or outside the ears, we let him walk. It seems this policy has worked really well. Sure, we haven’t shot many bucks these past few years, but now we are starting to see more bucks than ever. In fact, the survey determined we could shoot 4 or 5 mature bucks each year without negatively impacting the population.
What I found most instructive about the survey was the explanation of how to “age” a buck to see whether he is old enough to shoot. In addition to antlers that meet a minimum size, an older buck has a much thicker neck and brisket. Consider the buck in the above photos. His antlers have 8 points, but they are inside the ears and you can tell by his relatively thin neck that he’s a young deer. He’ll be a nice deer some day, but he’s not a shooter yet.
After a few hours of sitting in the fog, I called it quits for the morning and headed back to the house. That evening, I decided to sit in “Mike’s Stand.” I’ve had some good luck at Mike’s Stand in the past, and either way it’s always a joy to spend a few hours there because it’s one of the prettiest places on the property.
It was a gorgeous night to be out in the woods, and I grabbed a couple of shots of the sunlight in the surrounding pines as I sat waiting.
It wasn’t too long before this guy showed up almost 200 yards straight in front of me.
If you compare him to the buck I saw in the morning, the difference is obvious. His antlers are a little wider (at the ears) and 8+ points, but the biggest difference is in his neck. This guy was clearly an older deer, and ultimately I decided he was a shooter. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have been on some amazing hunts all over the world, but I have to admit that I still get a bit of buck fever when I see a nice whitetail.
The next morning, instead of hunting my Dad and I spent HOURS (literally) removing all the hitchikers (or “beggar lice”) we picked up on our pants as we walked through the woods the night before. While we didn’t make it in the stand that morning, that night I headed out to a different part of the property, the Borrow Pit. It was another gorgeous night that was almost too warm when I first climbed into the stand.
After not too long deer started showing up in the field in front of me, starting with this young 4 point buck and his two does.
Can you spot the doe in the woods behind him?
In this picture you can see his small antlers more clearly.
Later that evening, this doe came through with her two fawns.
Maybe I’m odd, but spending time sitting in a tree and hanging out with my Dad in the woods are two of my favorite activities. I’m grateful for the 3 days last week that I got to spend doing just that.