November 5th, 2016 was the “deer opener” in Minnesota; I’m no hunter, heck, I’m a vegetarian and have been for longer than I can recall. To celebrate the lives of the living, I chose not to wear blaze orange, climb a tree stand or drive back country road,; instead I headed to protected land in search of some regal and aging bucks.
Much like those readying themselves for “the hunt," Tamy and I woke long before sunrise, packed the car and made our way to a favorite spot to see and photograph deer. Far from captive, these herds roam between national and state park lands, and thus have a highly coveted status… protected wildlife. Able to wander for miles along thick river corridors, the herds brave non-human predators, starvation and the occasional drive-by collision. Without the human selected pressure to “bag” the biggest buck with the most points, these deer can grow large and survive up to eight years.
On this atypical November morning, temperatures fell to a balmy 37℉ (3℃) and plateaued at a whopping 75℉ (24℃). following a brief hike, we stumbled upon a pair of bucks staking out breeding territories just as the mist was beginning to rise. Rather than move in for a tight profile, I chose to include the foreground and background elements to suggest something about the time and place. In this wildlife landscape, the buck has curled his upper lip in what is known as a “flehmen response” to female pheromones. The contraction of lip muscles exposes the vomeronasal organs (VMO) near the roof of the mouth to the volatilized chemicals in urine and feces deposited by interested does.
With heavy hunting pressures close to our location, this male and others like him need only worry about the paparazzi during his pursuit of some love. While I’m not one to bash those who enjoy the hunt, I often wonder why the kill is a necessary prerequisite to enjoying a quiet morning in the woods.
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