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White-tailed Deer, on a tear

Not far from me is a wonderful metropark known as Glacier Ridge. For years, I rarely went there - maybe a stop once or twice a year. As I've become more acquainted with the place's little wildlife honey holes, I've been going more regularly, though.

Such was the case yesterday morning. I only had the morning to go shooting (with camera), so after a thorough shoot of some nearby waterfalls, it was off to Glacier Ridge. There is a field at the park's north end that is usually full of bluebirds and other songbirds, and the light is great in the early hours.

Not this day, though. The meadow was largely silent, and I thought about just packing it in. But I wanted to stay out a bit longer, so I slung the camera rig over my shoulder and struck out on a well-used deer trail. Before long, I flushed a gorgeous Coyote with lots of rufous highlights. The wary animal spotted me long before I was in camera range, and trotted out of the meadow into a vast recently mowed field. The beast casually trotted across the field, occasionally stopping to stare back at me.

This gave me hope that a White-tailed Deer might do the same. The chances were decent that I would flush one off its bed in thick cover, and if it followed the Coyote's lead and ran into the mowed field, I might be able to snag some action shots.

Shortly thereafter, I heard a rustle and looked ahead to see a large doe looking around warily in dense cover. She'd picked up on me, but hadn't yet spotted me. A few seconds later she did, and bolted for the open field. Unfortunately, there was tall vegetation between her and I, but it didn't take long to get into a semi-clear spot and drop the tripod.

Here, she shows her conspicuous white "flag tail"; the earmark of an alarmed deer at speed. We can also see her cleft hooves - a character of an ungulate (the "hooves" are really thickened keratin-based toe tips).

After her initial romp, she paused briefly to stare at me. Then, as if realizing how exposed she was, she really put on the speed and galloped towards a distant woods. White-tails at full whirl are impressive indeed. She punctuated her galloping with enormous, almost playful skyward leaps that were beyond impressive. In this shot, she is five or six feet off the ground.

In moments, she had reached distant cover and vanished. And I was quite glad that I decided to follow that deer trail.

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