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You'll Put Your Eye Out!!!

Thursday, January 31, 2019


 One minute they were grooming and smooching, Ringo giving TinyTine a delightful massage with teeth and tongue, and the next thing I knew, Ringo was all of a sudden sorta jabbing TinyTine in the neck. You liked the massage? How you like this? Bucks will be bucks.

And the poky-jabby move morphed into a push-fight.

 I hope you click on these and view them all larger, because my eyes, at least, aren't good enough any more to see the detail at this size. Look at TinyTine's eye in the photo below. (he's the right hand animal). It's shut. I have seen enough buck sparring matches now to get really nervous about the combatants' big vulnerable eyes. I wonder why I don't see more bucks with one eye, the way those tines rattle and thrust around. Maybe there's something in the architecture to spare their eyes when they're locked together, but it makes me extremely antsy to watch these matches.

The other thing that makes me nervous is the possibility that their antlers will lock together. Then what do I do? Go out and throw a tarp over them and take a hacksaw to them? Arrgh. What an awful thought, and far too dangerous to mess with. You could really get banged up getting in the middle of two terrified, locked-together bucks. It'd be like climbing into a Cuisinart.

So I watch these matches with a mixture of excitement and anxiety, hoping nobody gets his eye poked out, or worse. Obviously, Lil' Pisser is watching with some concern as well!

I love this portrait of the three of them. TinyTine on the left; Ringo on the right, and Lil' Pisser in the middle, right where he likes to be, alla time. Do you know how lucky I feel to be able to witness stuff like this?

This is what it looks like from the couch. Thanks to Bill for this shot of the deerstalker, stalking deer from inside the big heated blind! Most of my sessions are done around daybreak. I look out, see deer, throw on a bathrobe and go. I usually freeze my tuchis off in the process. 

Worth it, though, because the deer never know they're being watched, and they do whatever they do, which is exactly what I want them to do. 

Sorry to dash the vision of anyone who thought I get shots like this while wearing a ghillie suit and jungle-crawling through the little bluestem.

Do click on this one, to see TinyTine (on left) get a prong-scrape to his jaw. That HAS to hurt! I just hate the idea of fighting with your head. I would make a lousy whitetail buck. I'd be all, "You two fight it out. I'm gonna see if I can find a doe while y'all are going at it." I understand that young bucks do exactly that, with some success. :)

And click on this one, to see what I mean about the eyes being so vulnerable.  I do love how Lil' Pisser watches so intently. He's picking up pointers, for sure.

 It's hard to believe that TinyTine and Ringo had that tender couple of minutes earlier, as Tiny drives Ringo to the ground. Tiny is long and rather short-legged, but he's got tremendous hindquarters and a lot of strength. He's clearly besting Ringo here. If I had to guess I'd say Lil' Pisser is rooting for Ringo. He looks quite concerned.

 Tiny keeps driving, and Ringo is still down.

Finally, Ringo breaks, and Lil' Pisser leaps backward, too, as the clinch explodes in a defeat for Ringo. 

 I don't care who wins. I'm just glad nobody got hurt. You'll put your EYE out!!

 The two pals became combatants. And not long afterward, they went for Round Three! I couldn't get good shots that round because they were too far down the slope. Clearly, Ringo hadn't had enough.

 I was about to say I don't know how we got so lucky as to have all this fabulous buck action in the meadow. But I give all the credit to my little gal Flag, for stinkin' up the place and bringing them into the ring.
Now I'm curious as all getout to see if Flag turns up with a late fawn in August!

So the story goes, on and on. I love a story that goes on.

photo by Bill Thompson III

This post is dedicated to the memory of my Canon 7D, seen here in use, which probably made more than 250,000 photos for me and you before giving up the ghost on January 24, 2019. It was not performing very well, having increasing trouble seeing and tracking birds in flight, and its low-light performance was flagging. A probably minor issue with the SIM card slot (I couldn't get it in or out!) was simply not worth repairing, given that the camera is pretty much done for. It went to South Africa three times, to Ecuador twice; to Costa Rica four times; it gave us Jemima and Chet and all the beautiful birds and butterflies of Indigo Hill and surrounds. So when I couldn't re-insert the memory card, I knew it was time. I called Sonnie the Canon/Sony Guy at Midwest Photo Exchange, who knows me and what I do, and asked him what I wanted. What a thrill, to recognize his voice the second he picked up the phone! The entire transaction was finished in minutes, though we spent quite awhile catching up on other fronts. Gosh, it's lovely to just cut to the chase, eliminate the research, pick up the phone and ask Sonnie what to buy. My Canon 80D  (I like saying it because it sounds like Canon ADD) camera body arrived the next day (Jan. 25) and I've been having a blast test-driving it. Photos soon to follow. 

Because life without wildlife photography is just breathing, eating, pooping and sleeping. Thank you, 7D, for all the memories. 

Shooting a glorious sunbittern at Villa Lapas, Costa Rica. Trying hard to remember who took this. And it was Amy Girten, my dear love. Thank you. Glad to smoke you out. And yes, I remember dropping my iPhone 4 down over the bank onto rocks, and the sweet guide who retrieved it for me!

Prelude to a Kiss...Bucks Doing Weird Stuff

Sunday, January 27, 2019

 When we last left Ringo and TinyTine, they were meeting in the meadow.

 I was taut with suspense, up on my raised deck, shooting out the door on a dark, freezing morning.

And when they drew close, Ringo reached out and kissed TinyTine!

And then he started in nibbling on Tiny's nape, and we know how good that feels. Lil' Pisser, watching in the back.

 Well, I wasn't expecting this! Just the nicest drawn-out grooming session you ever saw. I've seen mothers groom their fawns, and doe-friends groom their pals, but I'd never seen two bucks be so nice to each other.

Let me do your brisket, too. TinyTine is in a trance. I would be too!

Now back to the nape...Tiny's all but asleep. Are they brothers? Friends? Father and son? Who can say? These are the questions I ask, but will never be able to answer. Why? But then again, why not? Just because they're bucks and there's an estrous doe around, doesn't mean they have to fight.

Did someone say DOE? See the white patch on Tiny's forehead? And the bright white ring on Ringo's muzzle?

Back to noms. I can almost hear Tiny sigh with pleasure.

This is the series of photos I was showing Geoff Heeter in this classic Indigo Hill moment captured by Bill.
And he's saying, "I've never seen bucks do that." 
This is a guy who has watched a lot of deer. In fact, he had fed us some splendid venison he'd brought the evening before. 
Yes, it was a little hard for me to lift that first fork, until I tasted it: perfectly prepared, tender and flavorful.

Next, bucks doing what bucks more usually do.

Photo by Bill Thompson III. Fashion by Rick's of Poland. Wall Hanging by Murr of Portland.

Meet Me in the Meadow

Thursday, January 24, 2019


From her brief encounter with TinyTine, Flag made her way out to the meadow, an almost visible trail of pheromones floating behind her.  Me, running from the studio to the living room, and easing open the deck sliding door to shoot the action.

 Buffy, her constant companion, at far left, then the spike buck I call Lil' Pisser, and TinyTine the ten-point at far right on the border.

Buffy picked up her head to watch, because clearly something was going to go down, with her girlfriend Flag stinkin' up the place. 

first, Lil' Pisser had the bad judgement to walk up and challenge TinyTine. Really? You're a YEARLING. But there's no mistaking his laid-back ears. He looks ugly.

One light shove and Lil' Pisser knew he was outmatched. L.P. never hesitates to throw it down. He loses every time, but he's gonna be a badass when he grows up, that's clear! Ain't skeert.

Be off with you now, L.P.

 Meanwhile, up walked the beautiful young 8-point I call Ringo, for the wide white ring around his muzzle.  You see how his antlers are high and big, but don't spread beyond his eartips. Less than 4 1/2 years old. 

 Ringo was trying to get a location on Flag, picking up her chemical beeps. It was Flehmen Friday again!


He doubtless knew that TinyTine was right behind him.

TinyTine walked up behind Ringo, who ignored him as long as he could. Look at the set of TinyTine's ears. Ut-oh.

Ringo turned to answer the challenge. A buck won't just let somebody walk up behind him without turning to face the music, points forward.

Ringo walked right up to TinyTine, who had stopped to be considered.

And they...kissed?

 This was getting interesting, but it would get a lot more interesting before the session was through.

Stinkin' Up the Place

Friday, January 18, 2019

Who goes there? 

 My friend Geoff Heeter introduced me to the concept of spread in antlers. A buck has to be 31/2 or 4 1/2 years old before the antlers spread beyond the span of the ears. I think I have that right. You can see that, while this one has a high crown and long tines, the antlers still spread no further than the ears do. This is not something I've picked up on before. I mean, I knew a wide spread meant an older buck, but I didn't know the numbers. Thank you, Heets.

I didn't know at first what brought them, these bucks, walking proudly through the meadow of another gray morning. All I knew was to praise them and start shooting, or rather, clicking, gathering my trophies, my snippets, my memories.

First was a proud, high-crowned eight-point. Not particularly massive or aged, like the brace of beauties in my last post, but so beautiful nonetheless. Any buck is a great treat for me.

He seemed to be looking for someone.

By and by he slipped into the honeysuckle and sumac tangle, taking a well-worn deer road down into the woods.

Following a hunch, I hugged my big lens and skittered through the house to the studio. There, I found my little friend Flag, Ellen's daughter peeking out from behind the birch trunks. Flag was born in the spring of 2016, with a twin brother named Pinky, so she's 2 1/2 years old now. 

 And it became apparent that Flag was, in hunter's parlance, "stinkin' up the place." It appeared she was still in estrous, on December 9. She must be really fast to have escaped getting knocked up in the first rut.

On another hunch, I peeked out the west window of the studio and whoa! There was a buck I call TinyTine, lurking around the fallen pine in the backyard.  TinyTine is a ten point, but just barely. See that tiny tine on the beam of the near antler? That's his claim to 10 point fame. I've been following him for several months. I see him regularly at a corn feeder about a mile to the east of my house. And now here he was right in my backyard! His other nickname is CornHog.

Flag knew when to get gone. She moved down toward the meadow, peeing as she went.

TinyTine, you'd best get going.

 TinyTine followed, checked that stuff out.

Mmm. I love the smell of estrous in the morning. See his partly opened mouth? He's doing flehmen, passing the scent through his vomeronasal, or Jacobson's organ, assaying it for hormones. This area is a patch of chemoreceptive cells in the nasal cavity, just above the hard palate. TinyTine is huffing Flag's urine, passing it through his Jacobson's organ, testing it.

Flag must've passed his test. After all, it's #flehmenfriday. The chase was on.

This will be a several-part post about one magical December morning. I'll post as I can, when I can find a couple hours to rub together. It's a challenge to even get the photos sorted and edited, much less write them up; it's taken days. But I don't want to lose this morning. I want to remember it.

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