Interrupting my morning perusal of Projects I Will Never Finish, I toddled off for a coffee break this foggy Iowa morning and happened to catch this guy out my living room window. Now, deer in this neck of Iowa woods are nearly an everyday thing - trouble is, they're usually so shy that by the time you get into halfway decent photo range, they're turning and bolting away, leaving you with a picture of a tiny tan-and-white blur receding into the brush that you have to explain is a deer.
So this time, I said, "The heck with trying to capture it on film, I'm going to go out and just enjoy my coffee and watch the deer." So of course, the deer let me get so close this time I could practically pet it! Well, a few minutes of that, and I went back for the camera just to prove to myself that I am not lucky enough to get close-up deer shots.
Instead, surprise, I got these! Not only that, but he had a buddy with him. I didn't get them both together because the camera battery was dying. So I stop and take apart the camera and fiddle with it, the two deer stand side by side and pose patiently, I get the camera going and bring it up, the two deer have given up and wandered off away from each other until my camera fritzes out again, at which point they decide to regroup for pose number-two, etc.
So, from my cumulative months of deer-stalking experience, here's everything I can tell you about how to get close to deer:
Find young deer. These two are barely out of the fawn stage; I'm pretty sure they were both does. It could be that they're young enough to have not had too many encounters with humans before, haven't learned fear, or something.
Be quiet. I was barefoot. The tread of heavy boots seems to upset them on previous occasions.
Be early. These were taken at 6 AM, and it's also very foggy this morning, so they felt a little bolder about coming out from cover.
When the deer first spots you, freeze. It will likewise freeze. Have a brief, non-aggressive staring contest. After the deer has watched you for about a minute, it will flick its tail. Stay still. It will watch you for another few seconds, then look away or down and go on about its business. Now you can start walking closer until it once again realizes that you're invading its personal space and zooms in on you, at which point this little dance repeats all over again.
I'm pretty sure the tail flick is a test to see if you're a predator who will chase it at the slightest sign of movement.
After I'd gotten within about fifteen feet, the deer just started behaving like it was completely comfortable with me and its friend wandered up out of the woods, where it had apparently been watching us to see how this encounter went before taking its own chances.
After a while, I started to relax, too. I started chatting, telling them I'd make them famous by posting them on a blog this morning, and so on. They shook their heads and twitched their ears at me, apparently fine with this idea. I started whistling while fiddling with the camera, and both of them pricked up their ears and looked at me with this expression that said, "Whoa! That's a cool trick! How do you do that?"
I think they were quite as entertained with me as I was with them.
Update: Only a few days after this posted, I saw this Boing Boing link to a video of a deer kicking the stuffing out of a dog (border collie mix?) and even trading punches with a cat. Pursuing the matter further, there's quite a few videos of deer attacking people.
So I'll just point out, (a) I would have been more careful with a buck than a doe, (b) I would definitely have thought twice about going close to a doe if there were baby fawn in the picture, (c) it just so happens that my parents owned an animal shelter which I helped out at in the tradition of the "family business" - so I have experience with animals both wild and domestic and know a bit about General Animal Common Sense - not that I'd get overconfident about it.
But I'm adding that and the links to these videos just to be sure I said, PSA "Hey kids! Be careful around deer! They can kick your butt!" in case anybody gets the wrong idea from my own interaction.
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