What The Buck? Adventures Of The Suburban Wildlife Photojournalist

Note: This material was originally posted Jan 13, 2007 and took place at my Bull Valley home in northwest Illinois near the Wisconsin border.

I was 10 minutes into a conference call that was exhibiting that fearsome combination of a professionally tedious obsession with detail, mind-numbingly slow pace, and marathon-level stamina that presaged a prolonged, perhaps record-threatening siege that would suck away my time and ardor into the black hole that is home to Harpies of hopelessness, denizens of despair, and other ex’s, when I spied first one, then two, and finally a dozen or so deer, each adorned by a flourishing set of antlers, shambling through my back yard.

Happily my telephoto lens-equipped, hot-shot camera was created for situations such as this and was stowed within ten feet me. Unfortunately, that ten feet was vertical distance and would require an ascension through the sturdy looking ceiling of one room and the equally substantial floor of another. Lacking Elijah’s chariot of fire or Captain Kirk’s “Beam Me Up, Scotty” transporter, I made a strategic shift to Plan B.

Plan B called for accessing my handy-dandy Canon PowerShot, which was, I knew, in a satchel a few (horizontal) yards away.

To envision the ensuing scene, think I Love Lucy meets Jackass.

The other folks on the conference call were not the sort who stop to smell the roses, and it seemed unlikely that they would cheerfully put things on hold while I grabbed the camera to snap photos of deer. Nor could I (literally) afford to miss any of the conversation.

Stretching the cord on the phone to which I was anchored to the maximum, I came within two feet of the camera. After several failed attempts, I improvised a camera-grabber from my Gorillapod and finally hooked the strap on my satchel, pulled it within reach, and secured the camera.

Sporadically murmuring non-committal noises into the phone to signal my continued involvement in the call, I turned my gaze back to the window. During this time, the bucks had sauntered (these are self-assured deer who perceive no need to hurry; with a tad more dexterity, they would, I’m sure, have waved a paw my way in casual greeting) through the yard into the woods. I made a single, desperate, one-handed, pointed rather-than-aimed shot through a window ten feet away that was lucky enough to catch one of the medium sized bucks before he disappeared from view altogether.

While the resulting photo is suboptimal, the effort involved in obtaining it greatly enhances its value to me.

According to several sources, including Social Behavior Of Whitetail Deer and White-tailed Deer, it’s typical for unrelated bucks to travel together in groups, especially this time of year. The group of 12+ I saw was, however, larger than the 4-5 members commonly found in such bachelor packs. And, the timing of their mid-morning ramble was unusual, given that deer, especially bucks, are preferentially nocturnal. Behaviors such as these, the same sources indicate, are more and more influenced by the impact of humans on such rural areas.

Although I can find no direct reference supporting the notion, one of the adaptations local deer have apparently made for survival in areas where their presence overlaps with humans is the development of an ability to detect when homeowners are rendered harmless by conference calls.

You saw it here first.


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