Elvis sightings are more common here in North Carolina’s Hoke County than finding a mature whitetail deer to photograph. Velvet on a young whitetail buck’s antlers is still fulfilling when you capture it on an image, though, even if the big bruisers are scarce. A nice pose makes it a keeper.
This one came in behind the house a couple nights ago, well after sunset. It kept its distance and spooked after I hit the shutter one time too many.
It’s not Rocket Science
One of the most reliable ways to bring deer in for photography is to provide a reliable source of food. They’re lazy creatures of habit and, like “The King,” enjoy a good meal. Be forewarned, though, just because you aren’t hunting it doesn’t mean it’s allowed.
Check with your state game and fish, conservation or wildlife department to determine if putting out corn (it’s addictive to deer, I swear) is legal. Some counties and cities also have bans. If allowed, find a local source and dispense it regularly—like every day, at the same time.
I tried a feeder here, but the deer considered that big, black monolith some sort of alien spacecraft. Attempted abductions took place at 4 p.m. daily, when I had it timed to dispense food. Game trails were abandoned and no corn was eaten within 20 yards of the “close encounter.”
If your deer also suffer from E.T. phobia, simply put it out in a pile. Maximize your return by placing it in plain view at the same location regularly. Then, slowly migrate the feeding spot toward your photo blind. That part’s not mandatory, but if you’re on a budget that precludes the purchase of expensive long lenses—like me—it’s a great option.
A healthier-for-the-resource alternative is a food plot. Do a Google search and you’ll find plenty of information from a variety of sources. That takes a little property and a lot of elbow grease, though.
You might even add a mineral block/salt lick, which can also improve the look of the velvet on a young buck’s antlers. I’ve tried those molasses-like mixtures you pour on the ground and haven’t had much luck. I’d love to hear about it if you have, though.
Again, check to determine legality before making any sort of decision. Rules vary and failure to do so risks hearing multiple renditions of “Jailhouse Rock” at the local courthouse.
Trying to photograph deer can be akin to a long stay at Heartbreak Hotel. Even yearlings are cautious—overly so. About the only time I see them come out in daylight is when they think the brush/trees are enough to hide them and instant escape is nearby. More often, though, it’s low light they prefer. At night’s even better, but good luck getting photos then.
So plan your photography spot next to treelines or plenty of cover and expect to see deer only visit at dusk, after sunset or dawn. My experience in Virginia indicates that can change over time, but it’s a frustratingly slow change and still depends on temperature, time of year and even cloud cover.
Velvet on a young whitetail buck’s antlers
The devil in disguise in this situation is that their shyness means most deer photography requires a long lens and tripod. Don’t get me wrong. There will be a pleasant surprise or two along the way, so when it doubt take your camera.
The above photo was taken with my Canon 5D MkIV set at ISO 800. The lens was a Canon 70-200 mm f4L, set at 200 mm and wide open (f4). With no image stabilization, that’s the least expensive of Canon’s pro lenses, if you’re wondering.
Shutter speed was 200, which makes a tripod pretty much mandatory at that focal length. To minimize movement I had it on a timer so I could get my finger off the camera and minimize vibration.
I don’t have a “Burning Love” for taking photos of velvet on a young whitetail buck’s antlers, but during the dog days of summer it sure beats running down to the gas station every time the scanner reports Elvis is filling up again.