Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Two deer browsing

with 26 comments

Two Deer 0336

After we came out of the restaurant in the Chisos Basin at Big Bend National Park on the morning of November 23rd, I noticed two deer hanging around, so I switched to a long lens and followed them for a while as they nibbled various plants. I think these were mule deer, Odocoileus hemionus, rather than the white-tailed deer found in Austin as well as the Trans-Pecos, but if anyone knows for sure, please speak up.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 9, 2015 at 5:19 AM

26 Responses

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  1. I don’t know for sure, but I think you’re right that these are mule deer. The big ears suggest it, as does the white on the rump that’s not covered by the tail. I found this page, that’s pretty helpful. Whichever they are, you couldn’t have gotten a nicer portrait if you’d asked them to pose for you.


    December 9, 2015 at 7:31 AM

    • What makes you think I didn’t ask the deer to pose?

      Okay, so I didn’t. Thanks for your link. In preparation for today’s post I also looked at deer pictures that I found on various sites. I compared ears and tails but I still wasn’t sure so I added a disclaimer in the last sentence. I can also repeat another disclaimer I’ve added from time to time: I’m a better photographer than identifier.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 9, 2015 at 7:48 AM

  2. Gorgeous!!


    December 9, 2015 at 7:38 AM

  3. I’m pretty sure they are Mule deer. The bridge of their nose is heavier than that of white tail deer, and there is a dark spot on the tail. Wonderful photo…do they have to be managed, or are there enough predators there to keep them in balance? There is a lot of culling going on here this fall. The meat goes to a food pantry, so I think it is a win all the way around.


    December 9, 2015 at 9:06 AM

    • Thanks for your corroboration of mule-deer-ness. I’m afraid I can’t tell you anything about deer management (or the lack thereof) at Big Bend National Park. Mountain lions are occasionally still seen there, but whether enough of them are left to fill the deer-culling role they presumably once had, I don’t know.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 9, 2015 at 11:27 AM

      • Probably not. This reminds me of a photo I saw on the internet…a hunter had posed for a selfie with his trophy deer, still in the field. Only later when he looked at the image did he see the mountain lion standing a few feet away, looking at him and his kill. Wow!


        December 10, 2015 at 8:28 AM

        • For me that has the ring of an urban (rural) legend. On the other hand, in Palo Duro Canyon (in the Texas panhandle) about 15 years ago I was so absorbed in looking at the scenery as I walked along that I almost stepped on a rattlesnake that I hadn’t seen on the ground in front of me.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 10, 2015 at 9:03 AM

          • Maybe but they showed the photo and there was the lion.
            That must have been startling. I often wonder why animals like rattlers don’t offer their warning a little sooner although of course calling attention to themselves is risky.


            December 10, 2015 at 10:51 AM

            • As much as I like the power of digital photography, it can be and has been used to create fake images. That’s what I was wondering about.

              The rattlesnake incident is scary in retrospect but it wasn’t at the time. If I remember correctly (and who knows if I am remembering correctly), I didn’t see much of the snake because by the time Eve said something it had mostly moved off into the underbrush.

              Steve Schwartzman

              December 10, 2015 at 10:59 AM

  4. I love watching deer, they have such interesting mannerisms and expressions…Great photo.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    December 9, 2015 at 11:22 AM

    • I see a fair amount of the white-tailed deer in Austin, mainly those that regularly come out of the woods to wander the streets of our neighborhood and that sometimes even walk across our front yard.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 9, 2015 at 11:31 AM

  5. I wonder if these are perhaps a white tail subspecies. The tail of a white-tail is actually brown on the top, as these are and bright white only on the underside, easily seen when they raise the tail. A mulie’s tail is actually white with a distinct black tip. Also the mulie’s face is predominately white while these have the white band around the nose, typical of the white tail. If these had antlers though, it would be very easy to distinguish the species.


    December 9, 2015 at 11:56 PM

    • You sound like a man who knows his deer. I just looked back at the pictures I took of these deer but unfortunately none of the photographs shows an upraised tail, and neither of the two had antlers. Still, the other traits you mentioned seem to clinch the identity as some sort of white-tail deer. I appreciate all your info.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 10, 2015 at 2:40 AM

  6. We only have the white-tailed variety here…well, moose are related but not deer by species. I read the title with the phrasing “Two deer abrowsing” which made me think of the “Twelve Days of Christmas” although I am pretty sure mule deer are not part of the lyrics.

    Steve Gingold

    December 10, 2015 at 3:51 AM

    • Welcome to the CMC (Creative Misreading Club). The first book in which I ever found the phenomenon mentioned was Nadja, by the French Surrealist André Breton. Surrealists celebrated the mingling or juxtaposition of things that don’t normally occur together. Maybe you can put together the lyrics for a full version of “The Surrealistic Days of Christmas.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 10, 2015 at 9:12 AM

  7. They look so elegant .. I don’t think we have mule deer here


    December 10, 2015 at 12:58 PM

  8. Great capture.


    December 10, 2015 at 1:04 PM

  9. So lovely. I would guess mule deer, too. That broad nose looks characteristic to me. The little dark V on the forehead is more distinctly an identifier, from what I’ve read. But whoever these two are, they’re really pretty.


    December 16, 2015 at 9:47 PM

    • I don’t think I photographed any other animals in the Trans-Pecos, but these two made up for my failure to find more. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 16, 2015 at 9:55 PM

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