Category Archives: White tail deer

Tools of the Trade

When the average person runs the idea of a “tool” through their mind, an image of a hammer, screwdriver or table saw might pop up first.  Tools of course differ greatly from one profession to another.  Wildlife artists and photographers have their own set of challenges.  The subjects that they pursue for their life’s work are largely afraid of them.  Animals and birds in the wild can disappear within a millisecond, IF you were lucky enough to see them in the first place.

My recent acquisition of a kayak (an early Christmas gift from my husband) has been a real game changer as far as wildlife reference gathering goes, in particular my experiences with birds.  Animals and birds are not naturally as reactionary to things that they don’t already associate with danger, such as a small craft silently approaching in water.

A recent trip to Truman Dam in Southern Missouri, revealed not only an abundance of stunning views, but also some really special wildlife viewing and photographing opportunities.   From within my trusty kayak, I could watch animals and birds behaving naturally and not just see their hind ends as they make a hasty escape.

The Truman Dam was constructed in the 1970’s.   There are more coves to explore there than one could ever find the time for.  I love it when I run out of time before I run out of territory!

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With nature, it nearly always pays to get out of bed early.  In mid November, the warm days of autumn were hanging on with the last of their loosening grip.  Cold nights, warm, sunbathed days…it doesn’t get better than that…

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(Below) This is a typical scene on any lake in the country.  This gull was there to greet me as I pushed off in my kayak for the day’s adventure.  The fall color beyond the gray and white bird was amazing…

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Rocky bluffs along the shoreline were covered in autumn color at it’s peak…

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While exploring deep within a cove, I ran into this big fellow.  He was nearly crazy with testosterone, chasing other bucks off the beach.  There must have been an “interesting” doe very close by.  I was able to watch natural whitetail deer behavior, which is always a treat.

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Meanwhile, while I was watching the deer titans battling on the beach, two bald eagles circled overhead.  It was hard to know where to point my camera…!

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Coming out of that same cove I was in for another surprise.  A young buck was making his way across the water.  The shortest distance between two points is a straight line and he apparently knew all about that.  I could tell that this was not unusual behavior for him.  He seemed quite comfortable in the water.

I was able to paddle my kayak faster than the buck could swim, and it occurred to me that for the first (and likely only) time I had the physical advantage over a whitetail deer.  I didn’t take it, as it would have scared the life out of him.  But it was an interesting thought just the same.

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Opposites are attractive…orange and blue…

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While eating our lunch on the dam, Alan and I met this little fellow.  Stray cats have made the dam their home.  We could tell by how hungry he was that survival is tough for them.  He was too feral to touch or catch, but we did make sure that we shared our chicken lunch with him so that he had a full tummy, as least for awhile.

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This is the face of homelessness.   Please, be sure to spay and neuter your pets!

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Back out on the water, a Great Blue Heron eyes me as I drift by…

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This crow apparently has not read the sign….he is not allowed to “park” here…

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(Below) My new painting entitled “The Nut-Cracker” (Read-headed Woodpecker) was inspired directly from my time in the kayak.

During autumn, these birds split acorns into pieces of fairly uniform size and tuck them away into holes that the birds have created in almost perfectly straight lines in old trees.  This tree was way out in the water, so the nuts will be safe from four-legged thieves…a pretty smart strategy I think!

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(Below) Another painting inspired by my kayak time entitled “Silver Lining”  (Forster’s Tern).

These aerodynamic birds are true athletes, able to hover in one place over the water just before a lightening-fast plunge for fish.  They are wonderfully fun to watch.

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New Opportunities

There is nothing quite like being out on water in a quiet lake cove, with your only company being that of a beloved dog, and the wildlife that calls the lake home.

I recently purchased a kayak.   I am wondering why I didn’t do this years ago.  Not only is a kayak a whole lot of fun, but it also affords a wildlife painter new opportunities for gathering that much needed photographic reference.    Animals and birds naturally gravitate towards water edges.   And most animals and birds are not nearly as afraid of a boat drifting quietly by as they are of a human being tromping through noisy leaf litter in a woods.   Getting close to your subjects is a real advantage of being in a boat driven forward simply by your own desire and a few arm and shoulder muscles.

Both of our dogs like to ride in the kayak.  Below Pawsome shares a wonderful morning with me out on the water.

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In the early mornings the coves are aglow in shafts of sunlight, accentuating the steam that rises when water is warmer than the crisp morning air of autumn.

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There are many rewards for those willing to rise and shine early…

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A muskrat slowly cruises by…

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A Flicker eyes me from above…

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Sunlight makes the autumn woodland glow…

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A Painted Turtle has decided that on this stump, there is only room for one.  The snake just to the right will have to find his own island for sun bathing…

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More paddling reveals more surprises…

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There is nothing like having a camera pointed at you while “doing your business.”   A young Double-crested Cormorant  finds a “rest stop” between fishing expeditions…

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Three heads are always better than one…

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A Zipper Spider perches on her glowing web…

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Mr Heron allows me to get very close when I’m in my kayak…

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Two does came down to the water’s edge for a drink.  I don’t think they knew quite what to make of that floating red-orange thing out on the water…

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That was FUN!  When can we go again???

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Baby Faces

It’s baby time.   Our woodland babies are just now old enough to go out exploring with mom.  The world is such a BIG place when you are a little tyke.

This raccoon litter of five will create a LOT of mischief down the road when they grow up a bit.   A friend of mine saw this photo and said “It looks like they are planning a heist.”   Indeed.  I wonder what they will steal first…

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I can just hear them planning…“OK Smarty and Shorty,  you go around to the right and me , Smittles and Bubba will  go around to the left.  Give a signal when you’ve gotten into the kitchen!    Batchy, you stay here and keep watch.   Now GO…and be quick about it!”

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Our does are finally allowing their fawns to be seen.  This one is a classic beauty.

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This fawn below belongs to a different doe.  He has white markings on his face and feet and a PINK nose.  I think there is an obvious name for him…”Rudolph”!   (Or Rudy, if it is a girl!)

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“But Mom, nobody will want to play with “a misfit.”

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A soft whisper in the ear comes from mom…“Everyone is different son.  And being different only makes you more special.” (Moms always know what to say at times like this…)

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Meanwhile, while I was photographing Rudolph/Rudy, this pretty hummer boy was showing interest in the hosta blooms right under the window.  What does this flashy fellow have to do with baby animals?   Nothing.   I just felt like sticking him in here!  :-)

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(Below) My painting of a mule deer fawn entitled “Baby Face.”   This piece was inspired by a trip to the wilds of the Yukon last summer.

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That Crazy Little Thing Called…SPRING???

Just yesterday I  typed away on a new blog entry (below), crooning about the wonderful joys of early spring.  The warm air filled with the soft smell of frozen earth thawing into mud and the promise of new plant life just starting to appear was downright intoxicating.    I had spent the past two mornings photographing  large nest-building birds, and enjoying the promise that springtime brings.

But nature had other ideas.  When I entered the grocery store yesterday afternoon, the air was almost balmy.  Although the once sunny sky was giving way to thick gray clouds again, it seemed to be of little worry or concern to me.  By the time I was wheeling those groceries to the car only minutes later, the wind was whipping all around and the temperatures had dropped by at least 15 degrees.  By bedtime, rain had become snow, passing through a sleet stage along the way.

One of the things that I most love about the weather, is that it is one thing that man has not yet learned to control.   The truth is, we are simply along for the ride.  So we may just as well enjoy it!  This snow (about 5 inches and still growing) is likely Old Man Winter’s last hurrah for the year.  At least I would like to think so…

Today my husband and I had a leisurely lunch in the hearth room enjoying the pretty white stuff as it found it’s way to the ground.   Spring will be here one day….. really it will

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Two of our does prance around in the snow.  I can’t imagine that they are not even more tired of the cold and wet than we are.

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Here our buck “TK” strides by.  The deer are still in full winter coats, thank goodness!

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Our deck railing makes a good resting place…

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Our front yard looks especially pretty when covered by a blanket of white.

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Silent Language

We humans often blunder through our daily lives giving little thought to the myriad of living creatures that  share this world with us.    The animals that live outside our windows are simply below our radar of importance.        For many, this happens  by default of logistics.   Being dwellers of concrete and stone, we go about our business paying little attention to anything that is  not relevant to our daily tasks.

But what are we really missing out on?  There is a world out there of  unimaginable complexity, full of drama and the constant use of silent language.  Many mammals don’t have a complex audible language.  They don’t need it.  They are masters at reading the silent language of others.

For anyone who doesn’t believe that animals  feel a complex range of emotions,  continue on and see these emotions for yourselves…

Winter is optimal deer watching time for us.  Whitetail deer are incredibly interesting to watch, as they tell us what they are thinking with their faces and their bodies.  Below a mother and  fawn share a tender moment.  Their emotional connection to each other is obvious.

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Another mother and daughter share a tender moment.   Fawns look to their mothers for guidance and decision making.  And the does show amazing patience as their fawns learn valuable life lessons.   Whitetail does are wonderfully devoted mothers.

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(Below) Trouble in paradise.  Sometimes when a youngster crosses a social line or comes too close to someone else’s mother, the emotional energy changes.  The fawn below knows that she has made a mistake.  The doe tells her so with a dramatic display of disciplinary body language.  A swat from a front hoof is coming.  The fawn knows this and attempts a hasty retreat.

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Another situation where a reprimand is necessary.  This fawn does not belong to this doe.  Like many ungulates, whitetail deer mothers know their own fawns even from a distance and don’t tolerate close contact with others.  This fawn knows what is coming.

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(Below)  This youngster approaches with trepidation.  The uncertainty is written all over her face.  Big bucks were already in the area and they won’t allow her to come near them.  She knows this and proceeds with great caution.   She is so wonderfully expressive with her emotions.

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The buck on the left (our long time resident Broad Beams) shows an obvious display of dominance and displeasure.  The buck on the right is Shark, a new buck in the area who temporarily denounced Broad Beams from the top position.  But antlers are everything in the world of whitetail bucks, and Broad Beams still has his here.  Well…..it’s PAY BACK time!   Shark doesn’t want trouble and makes good his escape.

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With a distinct display of aggression Broad Beams lowers his head and flattens his ears back.   This body posture is very effective and helps deer avoid dangerous physical contact with each other.  The only time this may not work is during the rut, when violent battles sometimes do take place.  But outside of the rut, deer have a very effective way of “talking” that requires no sound.

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(Below)  Mohawk makes it clear that another buck has come too close.   Just about anyone would know by looking at his face that one step closer could be your last.   The silent language of animals transcends species.

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The next time you get a chance to watch wild animals going about their business, take a good look at what they are really saying to one another.   This silent language is actually spoken quite loudly.

A Changing of The Guards

Well, after all of these years it has finally happened.   Just two short weeks ago, I wrote a blog entry stating that our old monster buck Broad Beams was still the king of our woods.   For years he has ruled this land with unwavering confidence,  maintaining his top position one battle at a time.   Wounds now cover his body from the rut fighting of recent weeks.   He looks tired.  He looks old.   He looks sore.  Indeed Father Time has finally worn him down.

There is a new kid on the  block.   Strong, stocky and in his prime, he has come here with great purpose.  Many big, strong bucks have come and gone, all trying to achieve the same thing.   Until now, none have been successful.

The one thing about nature that is constant is change.  It is the way things work out to keep bloodlines varied and animals healthy.    In strides our new patriarch,  “Shark”.   How he got his name is a long story.  How he achieved his new position as top buck is not.  It is quite simple really.   He won the battle between two great titans.

(Below) Shark boldly struts about.  We can’t be sure if he will stay in the area after the rut is over.  But for now, he is the undisputed king.  Because of Broad Beam’s long stay as the top breeding buck here, there is a chance that Shark is one of his sons.

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(Below) Broad Beams after loosing his position as the guy on top.  Note the horrific injury to his back right leg.  This injury is likely the single source of his loss.  He can barely stand on this leg now.   There is a deep puncture in his chest and his nose leather was torn nearly completely off.   Despite this, he is still the second ranking buck around here.  Everyone scatters when he arrives, everyone that is except for Shark.   It is so very strange now after all of these years, to see Broad Beams defer to another buck.

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(Below) Broad Beams in his prime,  cocky, confident and sporting a rack the width of a Volkswagen.  No one messed with him in those days.

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(Below)  BIG BUCK CENTRAL:  Shark (front), Mohawk (center) and Broad Beams (farthest).   Bucks are very social with each other as long as an estrus doe is not in the area.   Once the rut is over, these guys will buddy up together and will even occasionally groom one another.   But this is a “BOYS club”….NO girls allowed!

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(Below) A doe approaches Mohawk from behind.  He looks somewhat annoyed.  Moments later he chased her away.  When does are not in estrus, bucks don’t tolerate them.    “Three”, a young eight point watches from the right.  He has a lot of growing to do before he is in contention for the girls.

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The Hunter and the Hunted…

It is autumn here in the woods.  And a somewhat wintry autumn it has been.  The whitetail bucks are on the move following does.   Rut fights have become serious lately and our big old monster Broad Beams so far, is somehow holding this area once again.   I have no idea how he fights so well, as the competition is fierce around here and he can hardly walk due to a rut injury from two years ago that has festered into a great melon sized appendage on his right rear leg.   His nose leather was torn nearly all the way off a few days ago in a recent battle.   How can anything be worth all of this pain?!!

But the drive to carry on one’s genes is so strong that bucks will endure unimaginable injuries just for the privilege of being the only one who gets to follow those does around.

Yesterday while it drizzled cold rain, I was watching Broad Beams tailing does from  our hearth room windows.   We have seen some very interesting whitetail behavior this year so I’ve been keeping an eye on him.

(Below)  The fresh buck rub evident in this photo (on the extreme right) draws does into the area.  They seem to be very attracted to rubs.  Broad Beams did not make this rub himself but has claimed the area against all other foes non the less.

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Meanwhile… our little song birds have come en mass to the chip feeder.  The cold weather turns up the amplifier on calorie burning for them so they gather in large numbers vying for a precious spot at the feeder.

While I was watching the deer yesterday, songbirds were everywhere.  Mourning doves littered the ground, wattling around looking for food.   Juncos have arrived and were competing for eating spots on the feeder with gold finches, chickadees, woodpeckers, tit mice, and  nuthatches.   It was a quiet, serene scene filled with the calm beauty of nature.  Deer, birds…what more could anyone ask for?

(Below) Two gold finches wait for a spot to open on the feeder.   They are all puffed up to keep warm.

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Suddenly, the serenity was shattered apart like an explosion.   Every tiny songbird lifted off as one.   They left so abruptly that even Broad Beams jumped.   I’ve never seen birds spook quite like that before.   Then I noticed out of the corner of my eye a new visitor.  A Krider’s Red-Tail hawk had just landed and was perched only yards away from the feeder which is only inches from our window.  He was intense in his ghostly white.   He was here for a songbird lunch.    He flew wildly around, perched for a few minutes and then was through the woods after them like a shot.

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A couple of weeks ago a Cooper’s Hawk was swooping down, chasing birds at our feeder.   He was so ambitious that he careened right into the window while in mid grab.   Stunned but alright, he perched for a quick recuperation and then swooped around again for another try.   With the songbirds frantic and then gone, he went off like a missile to go and apprehend them.

I’ve more recently been seeing this Krider’s hawk performing wild areal acrobatics while trying to capture the same small birds.   Raptors have amazing areal abilities.  And they don’t give up easily.  I can actually hear the small birds  screaming while in frantic flight, desperately trying to get away.   This screaming outside is what alerts me to the action when I’m working in my studio.

It is easy to have an emotional response to this drama.  But perhaps this is not so far removed from what we as a species are ourselves.  As I watch a new mini-series on World War II (on the History Channel) and view the many atrocities of war, I can’t help but ponder the very nature of nature.    How do we fit in to this well organized scheme?   Perhaps we  ourselves are a bit more like this hungry ambitious hawk than we would like to admit?

Shooting Fish in a Barrel

Wildlife “management”.      We’ve all heard this term.  But what exactly does it mean?   Recently there has been much public debate on “controlling”  the growing whitetail deer population in a prominent park very near our home.   During the economy boom just before the recent crash, people were moving in droves into newly constructed McMansions (over-sized houses of the cookie-cutter variety placed on under-sized lots) built right up against the borders of this beautiful natural park.  What a nice place to live.  You can enjoy your enormous, impeccably decorated home and watch deer and other wildlife in the park through your rear windows.  Sounds appealing, right?

In the tiny yard surrounding your McMansion you plant your garden and wait anxiously for it to mature into an even more beautiful setting.  Splashes of blooming color now also surround you just outside your windows.  You’ve felt especially ambitious  and even decided to plant and raise your own tomatoes in your new garden.  After all, we all know how wretched those Styrofoam tasting tomatoes in groceries are…

On a rare trip out into your little yard to harvest some ripe tomatoes, you notice that some of your flowers have disappeared where there should now be blooms.  Your tomatoes don’t look so great either, as many are now gone and the plants have been pushed over.   The lower branches of your new carefully planted little trees are snapped off at about half their length.  You glance down and notice a place in the grass that has a foot imprint in it that is not yours.  It is a tiny print of an animal with cloven feet.   What could possibly have happened in your garden last night?    Whatever it is….this simply WILL NOT DO!

You’ve decided to set up surveillance by looking out your windows more.  You diligently keep an eye on those flowers and tomatoes even after the sun goes down.   Finally the culprits unveil themselves.  It is a small family of whitetail does.  They have come into your yard and are munching away!   All that colorful beauty is GONE!

A call to the Park Management is now in order.  You make your call only to find out that you are only one in a long procession of previous calls made by your neighbors.   Something must be done!  Your garden is RUINED!    And deer carry diseases too!   And the ticks are just terrible this year!   And ticks carry diseases!  What if you get sick?   This is just AWFUL!  The park ranger who has taken your call now feels pressure from the “public” to somehow make this tragic situation “right”.   A formal count of deer in the park is now in order.

It doesn’t take an exceptionally bright person to know that whenever wildlife and people clash it is always the wildlife that looses.   It has recently been decided that the whitetail deer population in the park will be reduced by three-quarters this fall.  Yes, I did say THREE-QUARTERS.   It is the plan by park officials to bring sharp shooters  into the park during a predesignated week.    These marksmen will wait in hiding as deer come up to feeding stations placed solely for the purpose of blowing their brains out.   Maybe next year’s tomato crop will be better…

The deer population within the park has indeed increased over time, as it has nearly everywhere else in the U.S. where they live.   Man is directly responsible for this, as we have systematically annihilated  any and all natural predators of this animal so they are left to reproduce with very few casualties.   If this “problem” inside the park had been addressed before complaints had been filed in droves, then perhaps a kinder solution could have been found.   Sterilization is a gradual solution that would have been quite effective over time.

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(Above)  A small family of does runs across a walking/bike trail within the park.

(Below) A doe watches me watching her.    Deer in the park and surrounding areas have very little fear of people, as they share the same space in close proximity.  I was on foot walking two dogs when I took the picture below.    Quite relaxed near me this doe lowered her head again to graze.

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(Below)  Bucks generally are shy and tend to be more active at night.  In the following two photos I tried to capture the ghostly nature of these magnificent creatures.   In these photos they almost look as if they are on fire, which I think aptly defines their wild spirits…

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(Below) A two month old fawn is attracted by our mineral block.  Life for wild animals is precarious at best.   With the added pressures from man, one can never know how long a pretty little creature like this  will survive.

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(Below) this three month old fawn is a sitting duck for the horror that is to come.    Killing these human acclimated animals will be like shooting fish in a barrel.  To me this short-sighted solution seems like a terrible injustice, not only to the deer but also to ourselves…

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Vermin:

“Noxious, objectionable, or disgusting animals collectively, esp. those that appear commonly and are difficult to control, such as flies, lice, bedbugs, cockroaches, mice, and rats.”
Has man added the whitetail deer to this list?

A Late Winter Treasure Hunt

Every king looses his crown…eventually.   The neat thing about the whitetail king of our woods “Broad Beams” is that he just grows back a new crown on the top of his head each spring.    He is old now, very old.  He has haunted our woods for the duration of our time in this home.  My husband and I have grown more attached to him than any of our other deer, perhaps because of his enormous size and charisma or perhaps because we simply know him the best.    Each and every time I see him, my heart beats just a little bit faster.

Broad Beams comes by every day.    He is shy around “strangers” and will lay low if he hears voices other than ours inside our home.  But he knows Alan and I, and if we are here alone, he just strides right up to the house.   Below is one of my favorite scenes through our hearth room window…Broad Beams approaching on the deer trail.  When he sees me standing in the window taking his picture,  he will often stop and pose for me before proceeding.  Then he emerges onto the scene like the great titan that he is.

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Each year the antlers  on Broad Beams have grown back a bit differently which is typical for whitetail deer.   The  size of his antlers is on the decline now because of his advancing age.   He is a magnificent, battle torn warrior, wearing the scars from many, many years of maintaining his reign as King.     These post-rut pictures (above and below) were taken this January at age 8 1/2.  Indeed he is quite old for a wild whitetail deer.

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Alan and I  hike in our woods each March, looking for antlers that have recently been shed by our deer friends.  It is like a treasure hunt.  We find something every year, but usually don’t find the antlers from our big guys.  Last year my husband found one of Broad Beam’s antlers.  After much searching, we were never able to find the other one.  Antlers usually don’t drop off at the same time.  So if a buck is on the move while they are loosing them, the antlers can be miles apart.

This year I noticed exactly when Broad Beams lost his antlers.  I saw him in the morning with them, and then saw him in the early evening that same day without them.  So we surmised that they must be nearby.  My husband and I set out on our late winter treasure hunt.   It didn’t take long to find both antlers.   They were only about 100 yards apart which means that he lost both of them at close to the same time and he had not covered much ground in between.   What a wonderful gift our boy has left for us this year!

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An Unsinkable Will to Live

It is nearly impossible for me to convey my amazement in nature with mere words.  Just when I think I’ve seen about anything a person could see, a new miracle comes along and shows me how little I really know…

Two winters ago while taking a break at lunch time one day, I looked out the window of  or our hearth room and noticed a strange sight.  A good sized white tail buck had wandered haplessly into view.   He emerged from the dense woods, lumbering awkwardly forward  like a strange creature from a monster movie.  His large head and shoulders lurched upward and downward in a dramatic unnatural fashion.  As he came closer, I could see blood running down his right front leg, which had been snapped at the knee and now stuck out sideways in a grotesque, demented direction.  The flesh on different parts of his body had been torn open, creating great oozing wounds.   Closer inspection of him as he came ever closer revealed a broken jaw and fractured rear leg just below the stifle.  His eyes were shockish.  He had just been hit by a car, perhaps earlier that very morning.

I didn’t know this buck until that day.   He came right up to the house as they often do and loitered around, trying to find the courage to move along on his way.  Finally he lumbered off in that jerky monstrous walk, crossed the little dead end road in front of our house, actually jumped our neighbor’s wooden fence (on three legs) and drifted off into a dense stand of cedars.  I was sure that he was doomed.  Poor fellow…

How little I know.

The unfortunate broken buck not only did return to eat the acorns under our burr oak tree, but he became a regular here that winter.  Slowly, the bloody wounds began to heal.  But the broken bones of course remained broken and healed in strange unnatural positions.  It was always easy to recognize him even from a distance.  No one else moved in such an awkward fashion.

As the warm season came, my husband and I felt certain that infection would set in and Brave Heart  (a name well earned) would not live for much longer.   Again, how little I know.  Sure enough when the next December came, Brave Heart came with it as if blown in on a cold westerly breeze.  We could hardly believe our eyes.  Once again he was a regular sight out our windows all through the winter.

Another warm season came and went.  Our deer become nearly invisible as the lush greenery fills in the woods and some of the bucks relocate for the season.   With Autumn and winter comes better visibility.  Sure enough it is December and  today on cue, like an actor showing up with script in hand for his first scene of the season, Brave Heart appeared in our woods once again.  He can hardly walk, as the right front leg has become a useless appendage that seems to be more in the way than anything else.   But here he is…our unsinkable and brave spirited man.  He looks better this year than in the past, as the heavy rains have brought abundant food.  For an animal with limited mobility, this is an important factor in their survival.

(Below) A look at Brave Heart through our living room window.  He is in good weight this year.

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Injuries cause unusual antler growth, usually on the side opposite the injury.  Because Brave Heart had sustained injuries on both sides of his body, his antlers are almost freakish, with tines sticking out in all directions.   Here he enjoys the seed pods from a locust tree (we refer to them as “banana skins”).  In this photo his broken lower jaw is evident.  Because the break is in front of the back grinding teeth, he is still able to chew, which is how he has survived all this time.

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Because of the massive damage to Brave Heart’s body, he is socially repressed by all of the other deer in the area.  This may force his testosterone levels to be lower than other bucks.    Each winter Brave Heart is always the first to loose his antlers.    In fact, they drop long before the other bucks, even the young ones.     Below he is ambling through the woods towards the house.   His broken front leg is obvious from this angle.

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Where Brave Heart goes when the warm breezes of spring arrive is anyone’s guess.  White tail deer have a way of emerging from seemingly nowhere and then vaporizing into thin air as a mode of transit.  This simply fascinates me about them.

It is impossible not to admire such a creature for his infallible will to live.  Indeed, Brave Heart has survived through yet another year.     I’m happy to say… “HOW LITTLE I KNOW“…

Welcome back, brave fellow…

Like Fine Wine…

My friends hear me speak of monsters.  Some of these friends have even witnessed them for themselves.   When mature whitetail bucks float about in the darkness of our woods they seem almost bigger than life.   But even the biggest monsters come from humble beginnings…

In the autumn and winter of 2005-06 there was a young spike buck who for a reason unknown to us, attached himself to our home.  Maybe he spent his days as a spotted fawn here and had no reason to leave.  Our home was his home.  His home was our home.   Everyone involved seemed to like it that way.

There was something special about “Teenie Tines.”   I knew it from the very beginning.   Little whitetail bucks litter our woods like hickory nuts.  But I knew when I first met him that Teenie Tines was no ordinary little hickory nut.  He was a constant fixture at our fence often peeking over it to watch us in the windows as we admired his adorable little face.  He was unusually calm and tame and almost seemed to enjoy our company.  His appetite was voracious.   It seemed that Teeny Tines couldn’t consume enough to keep his fat tummy satisfied.  He gobbled down acorns like a 200 pounder.  He was the only little buck that the big bucks allowed at the fence while they too, pigged out on acorns.   Teenie was to this day the tamest deer we’ve had here.  I used to joke that I could have put a leash on him and walked him around the neighborhood.  How I adored him…

(Below) Teenie at the fence saying “Hello” one winter morning.

Whitetail bucks change a great deal from little spike tykes to the monsters that some of them later become.  But I know our deer by their faces.  This fall a HUGE buck showed up at our fence that we had not yet seen this season.  I grabbed my camera as I always do and started shooting away despite a shutter speed that was really too slow to yield much success  .  It was dusk so my camera ISO was as high as the national debt, but I took my chances and shot away.  Sometimes you get lucky.  I was hoping that this would be one of those times.

It wasn’t until I put the pictures on my computer that I recognized him…OH…MY…GOD…IT’S……….My TEENIE TINES!!!!   We hadn’t seen him since he was a little spike tyke.   That explained why as we stood so blatantly in the window and talked in normal voices he barely noticed us.  He looked at us with casual interest and then proceeded to eat every bur oak acorn he could find under that tree…just like the HUNGRY baby Teenie Tines.

(Below) Teenie Tines has aged like fine wine.  It is ironic that a little buck I once called Teenie Tines (because of his unusually tiny tines) now has some of the longest tines I’ve yet seen.   Maybe his new name should be “Titanic Tines”.

Another look (below) at our boy.  Teenie has once again become a frequent visitor here.  He comes often, stays long and casually saunters away, just like old times.   It will be interesting to see if he is big enough, and BOLD enough to hold this area against some of our other monsters.

No matter how big and impressive he gets, he will always be “Teenie” to me…

Farewell Mr. Twisty

Monsters roam in our woods like phantoms in the night. They arrive without warning, stay as long as they please and then vanish into thin air.

We have grown accustomed to living with monsters. In fact we have given each one a name. We have learned over time however, that it is not a good idea for one to name their monsters…

Broad Beams” and “Twisty Tine” were two mature whitetail bucks at the peak of their prime. We most often saw them together, first under the cover of darkness and then as their confidence in us grew, at dusk and ultimately in daylight. They haunted our woods and ruled everything in sight.

We watched these two monster bucks grow bigger and bigger each year. By the winter of 2006-07, their ultimate size had become nearly ridiculous. They were an unrivaled pair that traveled together for a very long time.

One December morning I went for a stroll in our woods. I followed the deer trails as I usually do and stopped to study an old dead tree trying to decide whether or not it would make a good background for a painting. Suddenly, movement about 20 yards away caught my eye. It was strange movement in the tall grass, frantic and flailing. Then the movement stopped. This repeated several times before I realized that a huge buck was down, lying on his side on the ground kicking his legs, trying desperately with no avail to stand. His great head and antlers would repeatedly lift up into the air and return to the earth again with a loud thump.

Being the period of rut for whitetail, I gave him a wide birth. A burst of adrenaline could create panic and cause further harm to him and maybe to me. I checked back several times that afternoon. The state of things there had not changed. As evening came I could get closer and could see the life draining from the eyes of this great monster buck. By the next morning the buck had crossed into that unknown place where we ultimately will all find ourselves.

It was my husband who first recognized him. We hadn’t seen our monster bucks since the spring before; in the summer, the woods are thick and lush and the deer are mostly hidden from view. The antlers of a whitetail buck grow back differently each year after a shed. We realized to our surprise and disappointment, that this was our beloved Mr. Twisty. His antlers were different this year, but it was indeed the face of our old friend.

(Above) Twisty in his prime, sporting his whopping 16 point antlers (one tine is hidden).  This is a post-rut photo.

Nature has a way of taking care of things. The death of one means life for others. Foxes, raccoons, bobcats, turkey vultures and coyotes were all able to reap benefit from Twisty’s demise. They all ate very well throughout that winter.

I had seen our other monster Broad Beams shortly after I found Twisty dying. Deep scars all over his face and wounds on his legs told a story. With the ladies around it apparently was finally time to decide once and for all who was going to be King. I could tell by looking at how beat up Broad Beams was, that his was not an easy victory.

(Above) Broad Beams in his prime, the old man of the forest who became the unrivaled King.

The King’s sward (above). My husband found the shed weapon of Broad Beams that likely finished off the great Mr. Twisty.

(Above) Mr.Twisty as he lives on today…the beautiful sculptural remains of a once great giant.…     FOND FAREWELL, OLD FRIEND…

Perfect Winter Icon in the Midwest

There is nothing prettier than the woods in winter. The colors are subtle and soft as the world around us rests in near silence. Even the creatures that stir about do so without making a sound. This beautiful fellow is a regular here. His spirit carries on the wind in our woods. I am so in awe of him that I decided to make him the subject of my painting entitled “Through My Window” (seen below).

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“Through My Window” (Acrylic on panel) 16″ x 20″