Rutting buck in early snow storm

Buck in heavy cover

The Shot

Even in my very young years Whitetail Deer have always intrigued me and in those days it was always about hunting. When I was about 15 years old and on my very first year hunting with my buddy we managed to bring home some venison. Growing up in NW Montana it was just natural to be in the hunting atmosphere. After moving to Minnesota I gave up the rifle for bow hunting which I started in 1965 and continue to this day. To spend more time in the woods I took up photography around 1982/3. Little did I know at the time how the Nikon would change my outdoor activities. Although I still bow hunt the Nikon spends more time chasing whitetails than the bow. Over the years I have learned a lot about Whitetails usually from all of the stupid mistakes I have made chasing this beautiful game animal with bow or the Nikon. My bowhunting areas are different than my photography areas! I have about three public lands that I go to for photography. two of the 3 have a controlled hunt every 2-3 years. The key to good wildlife photography is that generally the animal/bird has to have some acceptance of you being in their domain. Usually your behavior when in their domain will depend on that acceptance. Some information on how I captured this image of this beauty of a rutting buck in fresh fallen snow. 

Minnesota had 5 + inches of snow in the middle of October. The most snow for this early in the season. I absolutely love to photograph wildlife in fresh fallen snow and when given the chance I am off to the woods. I arrived at thIs park shortly after sunrise. The bucks were just starting the "chase phase" of the rut. They have now come out from hiding and are seeking  girlfriends. Photo ops in the world of wildlife can happen very quickly, so I always preach in my many photo classes to "practice shoot". So I pointed the camera into the woods and took a couple of images and determined that my exposure should be about +1 EV. The snow on the trees and the tree bark are virtually the same tone as if a big buck was standing there. 

I was shooting manual exposure with Auto ISO and my EV set at +1. I also pre-focused about 100 feet, my reason for this is the closer my focus is to the animal the quicker it will lock on. In my early years of photographing whitetails I used blinds but now I just slowly walk the forest keeping my eyes and ears open. I always prefer to be alone! I am a nice guy but just a firm believer that when it comes to certain wildlife less is always better than more. I spotted this buck in the woods he blended in perfectly and guaranteed he spotted me long before I saw him. My camera was already pre-set, I quickly focused and was able to fire off 2-3 images before he walked away. Having everything all set in my camera allowed me to get this image. This is the kind of whitetail images I like because this is where they live, I don't always need the calendar shot but I do feel this image certainly has commercial value! After many many years sitting in my tree stand this is how the majority of buck I have seen on public land appear before me with no opportunity for a shot! If you would like to see more images, follow this link for more whitetails.

 "Good Shooting"

Technical Data

Camera: Nikon D500

Lens: Nikon 80-400mm VR S @ 220mm

Manual Exposure

F5.6 @ 1/250

Auto ISO @  560

EV: +1

Daylight Cloudy WB

Handheld with VR on

Firing in burst mode (High speed shooting)

Post-Processing: Adobe CC (Lightroom and PhotoShop)