Stumbling Upon A Herd of Deer

“Live bold, without fear. This is life amongst the deer.”

Giovannie de Sadeleer

Every nature photographer has moments and experiences that gladdens the heart.

This one for me however was a definite “I pulled over for this” moment.

It was May 13th 2017, and I was cycling along the local multi-use bicycle path on a pleasant summer evening. On the route home next to a local nature reserve, a clearing showed me several deer off in the distance.

Why my main purpose was for a simple bicycle ride, I had a small camera bag slung over my shoulder, just in case anything interesting happened to cross my way.

This particular patch of riparian woodlands, dubbed Creekside Reserve, includes countless deer in my explorations, but this herd was the largest I’ve ever seen in one area.

First, a lone deer carefully crept towards me as I stood frozen. There is something stunning about this large hulking mammals. Some of them can be so skittish and shy of humans that they will retreat at the first sight. Others are completely comfortable being near humans and won’t even bat an eye. I attribute this instinct or behavior to hunting season, each one can react differently!

Almost like a horror movie, one by one more deer came out from the treeline not too far away. By my counts there were about fifteen total deer all feeding and looking at what I was doing. I was equally paralyzed shaking and standing in excitement.

Photographically speaking this was “golden hour” light at its best, as these mammals come out in the open during dusk.

These two in particular seemed awfully curious as they slowly crept up towards me. I was camera-ready by this point with a 75-300mm zoom lens attached. Only needing to zoom in at 120mm and using an f-stop of 6.3 to distance these two away from the background more as a portrait. Then with a shutter speed of 1/200 second handheld, and ISO 800 to keep up with the slowly darkening skies. As you can see, 120mm isn’t that far from these ungulates.

While I doubt as was in any real danger, I stood motionless and only twitched my fingers to adjust dials and buttons. Another third deer seemed rather perturbed and kept pouncing and hissing off to the side to provoke me. After over half an hour, the herd passively retreated back into the woods.

Still brimming with adrenaline, I pedaled on home under the night sky.

This encounter is perhaps my favorite moment I’ve shared with these beautiful mammals.

“Going to the woods is going home.”

John Muir

Photographers: What are some of your favorite stories of encountering wildlife? Did you get the shot? Share them down below.

Make sure to get out there!

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