The Bucks of Autumn

 

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Two big bucks find my aspen tree much to interesting…

Living on the edge of a small town surrounded by farm and ranch fields in southwest Colorado, it’s common to see wildlife and how they adapt to their human neighbors.

Case in point are the four large mule deer bucks that frequent my neighborhood. I call them the Gang of Four. Not only do they know it’s not hunting season, but even if it were it’s illegal to hunt in a residential area. It’s as if they read the town statutes.

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I had wondered about the scars on the trees…they’ve been sharpening their antler points.

Like all wildlife, the Gang of Four knows where their preferred food sources are, and hang about in various nearby spots. They have raided my little garden repeatedly this summer, during the night. A chain link fence is merely something to hop over for them. Finally I resorted to some animal repellent spray, which is supposed to make animals’ mouths tingle in a way they don’t like, so they go eat the neighbor’s flowers, again.

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Trim and muscular, ready for the fall mating rut.

I have watched these bucks during the summer in “velvet”, the fuzzy covering as their antlers grew. Then suddenly they were back. In my yard, in the late afternoon. No more velvet, those antlers were fully grown and ready for the combat of the rut (mating season) in late fall. But for now the four big boys weren’t enemies. That would come later. After the sexual completion of reproduction was over they would become buddies again. I call it the Big Boys’ Club. I’ve seen bull elk do it, too.

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The Gang of Four in velvet, September 11. 

Photo location: Nucla, Colorado.

© Copyright 2018 Stephen J. Krieg

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Deer Family, Knife Edge Trail

Mule deer doe and fawns, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.

Mule deer doe and fawns, Mesa Verde.

I was walking (“hiking” would be overkill for such an easy path) the Knife Edge Trail in Mesa Verde National Park on a summer evening. It was almost sunset, and the afternoon clouds were threatening rain.

As I walked around a bend in the trail I spooked a deer. A mother with her fawns, still spotted, very young. Being that it was a National Park where hunting is not allowed (and not hunting season outside the park anyway) the deer were only mildly concerned at my intrusion into their evening feeding on the shrubs and grasses around them.

Knife Edge Trail, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.

Knife Edge Trail, summer thunderstorm evening.

With such low light I had to crank up the ISO setting on my camera and even so hope for some luck. Through several shots and holding as steadily as I could, it was the deer that were in motion, blurring themselves during the long exposure. I tried to wait until they paused a bit, then shot. Then tried again.

Mule Deer Fawns, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.

Mule Deer fawns, Knife Edge Trail.

A little bit of blurriness in the shots didn’t diminish a fine, surprise experience.

Photo location: Mesa Verde National Park, southwest Colorado.

See more of my photography at www.NaturalMoment.com.

© Copyright 2017 Stephen J. Krieg

Winter Deer Feeding

Winter in southeast Utah at 7,000 feet and the mule deer are down from the high country onto their winter range.  They are browsing on sagebrush and other shrub species, grasses and forbs.

It’s long past hunting season, so they are infinitely more relaxed than during the fall season. Thus a group of them are not overly concerned as I stop my vehicle on the lightly used county road to see if I can get some decent shots right from the vehicle as the evening light is quickly failing.

A mature doe and her two young ones from the previous spring are browsing the vegetation. They were fawns last spring, won’t be a year old until April or May, so are experiencing their first winter following their mother around.

It’s a light wet snow falling, so their coats look wet. But since the main part of their “fur” consists of hollow hairs, each hair is a little bit of trapped air–natural insulation.

Photo location: Manti-La Sal National Monument, near Monticello, Utah.

See more of my nature photography on my website at www.NaturalMoment.com.

© Copyright 2017 Stephen J. Krieg