It is coming up on deer hunting season in my neck of the woods, but I wanted to talk to you all about hunting deer for a purpose other than for eating. I enjoy getting out into the wild and interacting with the animals, deer being one of my favorites to encounter. I just wanted to share some tips that I have picked up during my exploits as a wildlife photographer.
(All of the above images were shot with my Canon 7D in combination with the Canon 300mm F/2.8 @ F/2.8. Shutter speed varied between shots but ranged from 1/300th to 1/600th)
The images that I am sharing were actually shot earlier today over at one of the national wildlife refuges near my home. This actually leads right into my first tip:
- Go Places where the animals will not be easily threatened by you – This is not as obvious as it sounds. Deer, and many other animals, are not oblivious to the fact that they are “safe” on refuge land. They are not harmed by humans in this places so they are less likely to be spooked by you if you handle yourself in the correct manner.
- Know the area that you are shooting in – Having at least a passing knowledge of the area that you are shooting in is a huge help in shooting wildlife. It allows you to make educated decisions about where to go to find the animals as well as where to wait for the to come to you.
- Go out for a shoot in the evening – Deer, and other animals like them, do a lot of their feeding in the closing hours of the day as the temperatures start to cool. I usually try to be in my location and setup at least 2-3 hours before sunset, this gives me time to get settled and be quiet before the animals start heading my direction.
- Telephoto Is Your Friend – 70-200 and 300mm lenses are your best friend. You will be hard pressed to get a professional quality wildlife image with anything less than that. Anything less than a 70-200 and you won’t be able to get close enough to the animals.
- Skip a Shower – If you can swing it try to make sure that you have not showered at all the day that you go out. The deer can smell your cleaning products long before you will ever see them, so if you want to get close I suggest skipping a shower to up your chances of getting in close undetected.
- If you get close, move slowly – When you get in close with an animal it is important to move as slowly as possible so that you do not startle it. Pay careful attention to your foot steps while keeping an eye on the deer. If you move slowly and pay attention to how the animal reacts to you moving closer you can see when you have gotten as close as that particular individual feels comfortable with. (For example: Tonight I was withing 15-20 feet of the doe that is featured in these images. I made sure to move slowly and she was laying down watching me come closer. As soon as she was uncomfortable she got up and watched me closely. Rather than pushing my luck I turned around and went the other direction, she laid back down and I returned to taking pictures. Had I kept going she likely would have taken off because I was invading her space.)
(Special Thanks to Focal Point in Dallas for use of the Canon 300mm F/2.8)
There are so many more tips that I could share but I feel like these are enough to get you started. If you have any questions feel free to contact me or leave a comment below. I would be glad to give you any assistance I can.