Tracking Goals

One of the trail camera videos I shared on my FaceBook page several weeks ago was of a beautiful 8 point buck on my property. Ever since then, one of my goals has been to try and get a worthwhile photograph of him.

I donned full camo, tried several different hiding spots, and sat in wait many-a-morning and evening.

No luck.

Then, where there was no real pattern or rhythm to their movements, the deer began to move at predictable times. So much so that I began to see the buck cross the road and into our swamp every evening at dusk at about the same time. I could see him from my living room window, but he moves like a swift ghost in the swamp and never saw him when I was in the woods. I managed to snap one (crummy) photo of him from my window at twilight right before ducking into the thick cover.

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I also manage to snap a few pictures of does making their way through a little earlier than the buck.

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One evening after a recent heavy snow fall event, I returned to the swamp and tucked in under some fallen trees and rotting logs. Every evening the swamp goes through the same progression. It’s loud. Chatter from song birds, the repetitive clunking from woodpeckers, red squirrels chasing each other to the tip top of pine trees and leaping branch to branch, tree to tree, in pursuit of each other.

Then it begins to quiet. The sun dips behind the trees and the swamp is transformed to muted colors and shadows.

Shadows that now play tricks on your eyes. What was that, was that him?

No. You will know when it is him, because there are other look-outs in the swamp, a sentry standing post at undesignated corners of the swamp. The red squirrels. Nothing gets past them.

Everything was quiet and I was just about to call it quits for the night.

Then a red squirrel let out the familiar battle cry of an intruder, the high pitch rattling buzz and repetitive whuuck alarm a short distance behind me. Not at all where I was expecting something to be coming from.

I slowly turn and look…look…look…

And I see a tail flick as the rear end of a deer ducks into a thicket. I stay on the thicket with my eyes peeled until I hear another red squirrel sound the alarm, this time across the road. I am pretty sure it’s the buck, so I turn my attention back that way. I hear a car come down the road, a crashing noise into the swamp, then it abruptly stops. The car slows, then continues on and I hear another crash of branches back on the other side of the road again. I’m bummed.

But then a twig snaps to my left.

About ten feet from me is a doe. She moves ever-s0 cautiously, picking her way through the swamp at a snails pace. With every single step she takes, she picks her head up, scans the forest and takes a moment to smell for anything out of the ordinary.

She never sees me. And what’s more amazing, never winds me.

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There is almost no light left at this point, but Nikon’s D600 is forgiving with it’s ISO range.

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She’s so close, I can see individual eye lashes and whiskers. She hears the shutter release as I snap these frames, yet can’t make out what it is.

Then she takes another step out and behind her follows her yearling. Together they make their way slowly past me and into the darkness, eventually lost behind shadows and twilight.

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I may not have got a photo of the buck (yet), but I doubt I will ever forget that experience with the doe and her offspring.

With the end of the year fast approaching and a new one looming, people start to think of their annual goals. For me, I need to have goals more than just once a year or I get too stagnant. I need monthly goals, weekly goals. A photo of the buck will remain as one of my goals.

 

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