Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Not passing the buck

with 30 comments

White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianuslive in my northwestern part of Austin—or I in theirs, depending on your point of view. It’s common to see does, but bucks put in rarer appearances. While driving home on February 6th I decided to detour along Q Ranch Rd., where I’d seen deer in the woods on other occasions. Sure enough, I quickly spotted a group, and to my surprise all had antlers. After pulling over in the first available place I walked back and managed to get about a dozen pictures before the last of the deer had moved out of range.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 20, 2019 at 4:48 PM

Posted in nature photography

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30 Responses

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  1. The buck stops here! According to Wikipedia this “is a phrase that was popularized by U.S. President Harry S. Truman, who kept a sign with that phrase on his desk in the Oval Office.” I didn’t know that background until checking the phrase just now.

    Ms. Liz

    February 20, 2019 at 5:10 PM

  2. I think we live in his territory, and even though that buck can pass us at an easy lope, we’re the interlopers. (That’s a pretty labored & unnatural pun, but I won’t think clearly until after dinner!)

    Robert Parker

    February 20, 2019 at 6:18 PM

    • Let’s hope your dinner is a dinner of energy into you. And if it includes cantaloupe, I hope you won’t lope past it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 20, 2019 at 6:46 PM

  3. You have a lot of patience to wait for these critters to pose. They tend to move; thus, I often shoot videos rather than risk blurry furs and faces.

    We ourselves spotted a buck New Year’s Day. Shot him! With my video camera. 🙂 “2019 New Year’s Day Buck” (http://whilldtkwriter.blogspot.com/2019/01/2019-new-years-day-buck.html)–embedded video link included.

    I found antlers to be one interesting topic, which I included info in my article.

    From “What Happens to a Male Deer’s Antlers in the Winter?”
    “they eventually drop off sometime between December and March — not always at the same time — and are left behind.

    From “White-tailed Deer” (https://tpwd.texas.gov/publications/nonpwdpubs/introducing_mammals/white_tailed_deer/)
    “Shedding takes place from mid-January to mid-April, but most mature bucks in good physical condition have dropped their antlers by the end of February.”

    Poked around my most recent collection of deer pix and video, which I shot 1/21. A passel of 10 does, although a couple look to be adolescents.


    February 21, 2019 at 7:31 AM

    • Your post is an excellent compendium of what’s known about white-tailed deer. It’s appropriate that you’ve gathered so much information about them, given how many of them gather in our neighborhood.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 21, 2019 at 8:28 AM

  4. I’ve always laughed at the suggestion that the deer have a calendar hanging on a tree somewhere that lets them know when hunting season’s over. The special late season and the youth-only seasons were from January 7-20 this year in Travis County, so it makes perfect sense that these handsome fellows would be out and about again.

    Some friends in Comfort had a grass airfield on their home place, and it would be thick with deer until hunting season began. You’d never see another one until the season was over, unless you happened to spot some crossing a road very early or late.

    This is a great photo. I especially like the way the horizontal lines of its coat stand out against the vertical grasses.


    February 21, 2019 at 8:01 AM

    • What you say about Travis County as a whole makes sense because it includes plenty of rural areas. In contrast, Austin, which sprawls all over the place now and extends miles and miles past my neighborhood, doesn’t allow hunting within its city limits. Neither, I believe, do the adjacent suburbs, which also sprawl. As a result, unless there’s migration from faraway parts of the county, it seems there shouldn’t be differences in deer numbers in my part of town other than those caused naturally by the seasons and the lifecycle of the deer. I haven’t paid careful attention, but I’m pretty sure we see plenty of deer in the neighborhood year-round.

      Thanks for appreciating the horizontal-vertical contrast.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 21, 2019 at 8:56 AM

  5. Deer images are what make up probably 80% of my photo files. I am still seeing Momanem (Mama doe and her triplet fawns) in the pecan orchard. Lately the does are banding together with last season’s fawns and yearlings, and the bucks are beginning to yard up a bit too. We noticed last week on game cameras that the older bucks are shedding their antlers… so it’s time for me to go hiking in search of sheds. Your subject looks like a young fella (2 year old maybe) and in very good shape post-rut. Most of the time the bucks are fairly lean from several months of chase. This specimen will be in his prime by next season, and much more fetching to the does – I’d just bet on it!


    February 21, 2019 at 11:13 AM

    • Yes, you’re the queen of deer pictures, along with knowledge of these creatures. Thanks for letting me know that the buck in my picture seems to be about two years old and in good shape. Your comment about shedding antlers makes me think I should do the same in a while in the area where I saw this buck congregating with the others.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 21, 2019 at 11:49 AM

      • It’s always exciting for me to hike around looking for those antler treasures! All I have ever found was not a shed but a broken antler, likely lost in sparring early in the rut. Forrest has come across many sheds, but only one time found both antlers just a few yards from each other. I hope you do find an antler or two… or more!


        February 21, 2019 at 12:41 PM

        • I’m surprised you haven’t come across more, given all you time out on land with deer. Over the years I’ve found just three antlers, I think, so more for both of us would always be welcome.

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 21, 2019 at 6:09 PM

  6. When I visit the Quabbin Reservoir I see lots of white tails, but what you say is true for here as well…not so many bucks, or at least antlered. I was walking down a trail once and happened upon a young antlered male and we just stared at each other until I decided to try to photograph it and away we go. No picture but a nice memory rekindled by your nice shot.

    Steve Gingold

    February 21, 2019 at 4:27 PM

    • Part of the problem in getting good deer pictures is that I, and probably you, rarely have a telephoto lens on the camera at the time of an encounter. In this case I parked maybe a hundred feet past where I’d seen the deer, out of sight of them, so I quickly put on my 100-400mm lens and cautiously walked back, taking pictures from several spots as I advanced. I wish I could’ve zoomed in even closer, but the deer wouldn’t have it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 21, 2019 at 6:14 PM

      • That’s a good way to approach them and other wildlife. In my case I was on foot and he popped out of the bushes. But it may be a more memorable encounter for that reason.

        Steve Gingold

        February 21, 2019 at 6:28 PM

  7. These are such beautiful animals!! Wonderful photo!


    February 21, 2019 at 8:07 PM

    • They often wander the streets and yards of my neighborhood, coming out of and returning to the canyons and woods that are their natural home.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 21, 2019 at 9:25 PM

  8. He’s slender for an eight pointer. Nice shot, Steve.


    February 22, 2019 at 6:55 AM

    • Thanks. I confess to knowing more about the eight “points” on an octagon but I’m happy to have recorded the eight on this deer.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 22, 2019 at 7:21 AM

  9. When we moved to Illinois in 1976, there were no deer at all here. I don’t remember when they started showing up. Unfortunately people feed them and so now we have an over abundance of them. They wreak havoc on natural areas and bring ticks to our yards. We didn’t have ticks back then, either, come to think of it.


    February 23, 2019 at 8:06 AM

    • Interesting that at some point deer started showing up in your area. I wonder if they’d originally lived there, been driven out for a time (perhaps a long time), and then returned, maybe after hunting got banned in relatively populated areas.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 23, 2019 at 8:28 AM

      • I think the neighborhood deer like the salad bars that residents plant for them. 🙂 FWIW, in past years when my yucca would occasionally bloom, the deer would chomp the blooms and stem within a day or so. (OK, I’m assuming deer had been the culprits.) In 2017, I was able to record its entire 22-day start-and-end bloom cycle (https://whilldtkwriter.blogspot.com/2017/11/22-day-cycle-of-twist-leaf-yucca.html).


        February 23, 2019 at 9:13 AM

        • I believe you’re right that deer are responsible for the chomped-off tops of yucca flower stalks that are commonly seen in our part of town. You may have heard me say that shortly after we moved into our current house 15 years ago we accidentally left the side gate open one afternoon when we went out. After we got back home we found a doe and fawn in the back yard; they’d eaten half of a plant that a friend gave Eve as a moving-in present and would probably have eaten the other half if we hadn’t interrupted them.

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 23, 2019 at 10:07 AM

      • They were definitely here historically. We’d find old deer blinds in the woods. I suppose they were over-hunted which is hard to believe since backwoods people seem to have a pretty good sense of how much to harvest in a year. Wolves and mountain lions were long since extirpated from the area. My sense is that they prefer woodland habitat (the deer) and there are more trees in this area than formerly. Then, finally, yes, there has been an explosion of mcmansions that create an optimal habitat for the deer, from tasty landscaping to silly feeding of deer. The ticks seem to be new, however. I’ve seen no indication that there were ticks here before the deep population dropped. They are closely tied to the deer population now, however.


        February 24, 2019 at 11:25 AM

        • Too bad about the ticks. I’ve heard they’ve become a problem in the Northeast. Although we have ticks here, I’ve rarely found any on me during my two decades of wandering the land.

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 24, 2019 at 11:51 AM

          • I remember when I could go confidently into the wilds without a thought~no more.


            February 25, 2019 at 7:51 AM

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