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