Is Deer Hunting For The Birds?

Carefully, I chose my steps. The herd of deer was out in an open field, as was I. Too sudden a movement and they’d spook, and I was trying to get as close as I could to take my shot.

Two or three more steps and another pause, a bit parallel, a bit closer. I’m taking care not to stare, to pretend I’m just doing my own disinterested thing. There were 14 in the herd. It would only take one to interpret my nonchalant amble as the stalking that it was and set the alarm.  40 yards away now.

The pros, when they go after the wildlife often work from a blind, or pick a nondescript spot downwind and break out the big guns.  600 mm, long and heavy enough to need a support to prop it up.  They’ll take all day to set up the perfect shot.  No such luck for me, I’m shooting smaller caliber. I have to get closer and don’t have the time to futz around. Lyrics from the Broadway show Hamilton pass through my mind: “I am not throwing away my shot“.  This is the moment.  I choose a healthy young buck as a target.

Click.

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(Click on any picture for a larger version)

I check the picture.  Not bad, not great.  Looking around, I fire off a couple of doe and Bambi shots, then notice a friendly greeting betwixt doe and stag.

_72D4874-1200* * *

The location is Fort Flager state park, on the north edge of Washington state.  Near Port Townsend, it abuts the Strait of Juan de Fuca which runs inland from the Pacific Ocean, providing a salty border between the United States and Canada. They built the fort in the late 1890’s, and along with the heavy artillery of Fort Worden and Fort Casey it once guarded the nautical entrance to Puget Sound. While they manned these forts during WW I, WW II, and the Korean wars, realistically they were obsolete after WW I due to evolving battleships and naval air power.  The army bailed out after Korea, but the concrete gun emplacements and barracks remain, and only deer march on the parade grounds.

Speaking of air power…

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Seeing eagles is not uncommon along the Strait, but there’s a resident eagle at the fort that is so comfortable in his feathers he’ll let you walk within 50 feet of his favorite perch – maybe closer.

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I don’t know if it’s the same eagle we see in different perches, but whoever he is, he’s got charisma.

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Impressive bird, eh?

But there’s another bird around the place, a whole flock of ’em actually, that can fly old Mr. Imperious Eagle into the ground.

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Yep, it’s your basic barn swallow.

Do you want a challenge? Try taking a picture of a barn swallow in flight. Aerodynamically designed to catch flying bugs, dipsy-doodle is its middle name. They dip, swerve, change directions on a whim, and at a rate of speed that would make a fighter pilot envious.  Add the limited field of view of a telephoto lens and constantly changing focus point, just trying to keep it in a viewfinder is a battle. This one was mocking me, flying around me in circles simply to watch me do a pirouette.  Or make me dizzy. Ever hear a bird laugh?

But somehow, a miracle happened and I got a good shot.  That sudden headwind probably helped. Slowed him down to subsonic speeds.

Our day slowed down as well. After dinner, we walked to the beach and encountered a pro at walking the beach.

_72D4892-1200.jpgA great blue heron waded along, one elegant step at a time, keeping one wary eye on those clumsy landlubbers and the other out looking for its dinner.  One of the lubbers practiced his deer stalking techniques – would it work on herons?

_72D4895-1200The heron was indifferent to my stalker techniques, it was the master. Once dinner was safely ensconced in beak, it was sayonara dudes, I’m out of here.

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As the evening fell, the swallows had one last flight, chasing down the bugs hovering above a pond. Who knows if they reflected on the day as it reflected on them.

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And so the day of hunting ended: hunting for deer, hunting for birds, hunting for relaxation and enjoyment in the company of friends and nature.

49 thoughts on “Is Deer Hunting For The Birds?

    1. Thanks, Peter. I wasn’t sure if this “hunting” approach would be a turn off for readers, I guess time will tell. Hopefully, folks will read the full story to see how the concept comes together.

      Besides, I don’t even like venison.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Dave you had me nervous there with this title until I started reading… and smiled and sighed a huge sigh of relief. I love the bird photos! That close up of the eagle with his bright yellow beak is incredible . And the barn swallow in flight is a terrific shot. What a beautiful day and glorious sunset to top it off – I can feel the tranquility of it all.

    Peta

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, this is the sort of post folks actually need to read to appreciate – judging the book by its cover may be misleading. Folks should know me better by now. But I think it’s fair to say wildlife photography is a form of hunting, just more benign to the animals.

      Like

  2. Wow, congrats on a very successful expedition, especially freezing the barn swallow in mid-swoop, and the regal eagle shots. And the pond shot is great, too, having the diagonal fence disappearing into the distance makes it a picture you could look at repeatedly and enjoy. That’s quite a day’s worth of photos.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Full disclosure: it was really more than one day. The deer, heron, and first eagle shots were one evening; the swallow the next morning; the second eagle, fence, and sunset pics a third evening. I was at Fort Flager for a trip with my dive club and the photo excursions were adjuncts to diving, general socializing, and avoiding rain and wind. The third, blue sky eagle shot was actually from last year, same tree as the first eagle shot. I took a liberty with the narrative for continuity.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I checked the WP rule book and as long as you keep a current Artistic License displayed on the windshield, a composite day is allowed for continuity of narrative. 🙂
        I hadn’t heard of Ft. Flagler, and when I looked it up, the article listed the all the contemporary “Endicott Period” (?) coastal forts & batteries – – wow, never realized how many of these things they built, and a lot of them near NYC and Philly, etc. It’s actually kind of great, if these obsolete installations ended up preserving lots of waterfront for public use. And bird use!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. A beautiful post in every way – the happiness of finding that you were only shooting with a camera (which I figured even before reading), the deer, the incredible eagle, the swooping barn swallow, the heron, the sunset, and last but not least, the clever description of your day and your “prey.”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Lex. I get the impression most folks were uncertain where I was going with this – the response has been lighter than usual. I guess folks equate hunting with killing (and some damn it with one breath and eat a hamburger with their next). I’m glad you stuck it out to find there was actually beauty within.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I have to admit, I was glad to discover you were talking about taking photo shots and not the other kind! I love seeing deer in the wild, and never tire of seeing them. I know they can be a nuisance to others, but there’s something about deer that just touches my heart.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’d like the area around Fort Flagler and Port Townsend, deer are plentiful and accustomed to people. But folks, even well within city limits, don’t always love what they do to their vegetable gardens.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. What a nice post, Dave! I was reflecting that all those animals – deer, swallow, eagle, heron – can also be found in the lands where I was born, in Northern Italy, but despite that they’re all a bit different. Deer have a lighter fur colour, swallows are smaller and darker (and, I suppose, as hard to photograph!), our eagles don’t have the swagger of that bald eagle (In fact the first time I saw one perched on a branch and not in the stratosphere was in Sri Lanka, of all places) but the heron, hey, our herons are all white like ice cream vendors!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Amazing pictures! I’ve finally lost count of how many deers I’ve seen 🙂 It used to be such a sad number I could keep count. Really liked all the deers gathered together, they look happy and relaxed. Hope we can get that close to an eagle one day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This was possibly the largest herd I’ve seen, they did seem like all was well in their world. If you keep coming back to the NW, your chances are good for seeing eagles. Another place I’ve seen a lot of eagles, fairly close, is at the marina at Neah Bay, on the NW tip of Washington state.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I figured my regulars would know I do my shooting with a camera. I did find it interesting the usual crop of SPAM likers didn’t show up this time – just goes to prove they don’t read beyond the title. I’m glad you enjoyed the recent posts. I have no idea what I’m going to do next.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I was sure I remembered you saying something similar to this before, and I just clicked on your ‘Blogging’ tag and did a quick scan of the posts that came up. I don’t think you’ll be stuck for ideas for long!

        I have to say that when I started my blog in 2015 I had no idea I’d still be with it in 2018. It’s amazing where our blogs can take us!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think we started about the same time – I think I discovered you in one of those WordPress newbie classes. I wonder how many of those newbies have stuck it out – 10% maybe?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Hi, Dave. Very nice post and photography as usual. Sometimes I wonder if I should call it quits. I’ve been at this for a while. The thing is that to me writing is a form of discipline that forces me to focus and clarify my thoughts. I’ve never done any serious writing before so this platform is a good avenue for me to share what I did. Yours is one of the very few blogs I follow. So, keep at it, my good man.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Thanks, zoomboshi. Sometimes I forget part of my reason for doing this was to try to learn to write better. Lately I’ve been more focused on the photography side, I’ve kind of forgotten about pure story telling.

        I find getting feedback helps provide motivation to hang in there. Of course, getting a fair amount of feedback calls for giving a fair amount of feedback. It can be a bit of a time suck. An any case, I’d pass the same back to you – keep at it, as long as you find fulfillment in it.

        Like

    1. Thanks, Lynn. I’ve noticed in recent years that while trips associated with my dive club are supposed to be about diving, more and more they’re socially oriented and inclusive of things beyond doing a dive or three. Ergo, an entire post where I didn’t even mention it was a dive oriented trip – it just didn’t fit the narrative.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Gulp! I wasn’t sure if I would read beyond the first paragraph. 🙂 The bird shots are amazing! I also loved the shot of the reflection of the cloud on the water. How easy is it to spot these birds/animals in their natural habitat? We haven’t been lucky with animal sightings or quick enough to ‘shoot’ the birds before they fly. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is pretty easy to spot and approach the critters at Fort Flagler. It’s far enough away from town for them to be around, but as it’s a state park they’ve seen enough people to not be scared off as long as you aren’t too aggressive.

      Liked by 1 person

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