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For many of us, hunting is not only bringing home a trophy to hang on our wall, it is also a way to enjoy nature, to feel a part of the natural world and design of nature. But what do we do after the legal hunting season? Sure, we plan the next hunt; we clean our bows and rifles; we go to the range to keep our skills honed; but how many of us really go back into the field after the hunt?
If you live near where you hunt, think about taking a camera out into the field before or after the legal shooting season. Cameras aren’t too expensive, and you don’t have to be an expert nature photographer to enjoy taking photos of nature.
Why ‘hunt’ with a camera? Several reasons come to mind: for one thing, as stated above, it will increase your time in the field. Also, many of the skills, finding where animals are, stalking, or even still hunting, are the same whether you are a bow, rifle or camera hunter. Stalking and still hunting skills are necessary when trying to get close enough to get that extra-special photo, and this can carry over into the hunting season. Plus, you can take photos of animals that you can’t legally hunt, or that you wouldn’t want to kill. Think nearly born, spotted fawns, raptors, baby birds, or bucks in velvet.
Whitetail buck in velvet. Good one, no?
For this photographing wildlife as a part-time nature hobby, you don’t need tripods and huge lenses like a professional. I advise a telephoto, at least 300 power or the equalivent, or 500 if you can afford it. The problem with the largest lens, even a 500, is that you almost need a tripod to get good, sharp photos. They do get rather heavy and awkward, and are hard to hold, especially in a strong wind.
Camera hunting is a great way to increase your stalking skills, and the smaller the telephoto, the closer you are going to have to get to get a photo that is more than just a brown dot on a field of green.
A sparrow hawk and his meal, a pigeon.
The telephoto is a must when photographing dangerous animals, like this big fellow.
If you live near where you hunt, going afield with a camera is good way to get a ‘feel’ for what animals inhabit the area. This is a good way to scope out the hunting for next fall. You can see the trails where the deer travel, and you can spend time in the tree stand discovering just where they come from, and what limbs or brush or trees might be in the way of a good shot. Taking photos of the deer also gives you an idea of what buck you want to concentrate on during the season. If you know that there is a 10-point buck in that area, and you have photos, you can get an idea of his habits and his range.
When I’m doing photos for myself, I like my 5 megapix digital camera with a 5 power zoom lens. Not the greatest for long distance photos, but it does improve you stalking skills; it is small, easy to use, and I can see immediately what my photo will look like. It is also cheaper as I don’t have buy and develop film.
A sandhill crane family. Rather cute little guys.
A side bar to taking field photos is that many times in the past people have taken photos of national park animals or animals in a protected area, and these helped to establish the fact that that particular animal was in a protected area should the game departments catch a poacher with that animal.
In my case, I don’t buy greeting cards any more. My friends all get computer generated cards using my photos. (A really nice, personal touch to birthdays and special occasions.)
Give camera hunting a try. It is an excellent way to increase stalking skills, get an idea of how and where the deer travel, and it is a lot of fun. Who knows, maybe it can also lead to extra money or an entirely new career!
© June 2008
Alaska and the Yukon
North Alabama, Mississippi p
and North Georgia
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