Thursday, January 5, 2012

"The Rut" at Hagerman NWR

Hagerman Wildlife Refuge has beautiful White-tailed deer within its boundaries. Traveling the roads and trails within Hagerman hoping for a glimpse of one of the magnificent bucks is a common pastime of many visitors to the refuge. One of the best times to see White-tailed bucks in Hagerman is during "the rut". The rut is the time of year when deer breed. During the rut, the bucks move more often on a constant search for does with which to mate. This is also a time when the bucks have their attention focused on finding does and seem to lose a lot of their natural caution. For this reason, White-tailed hunting season runs during the rut. This is also a great time to photograph the bucks. Not only does one have a better chance of seeing a buck, but the bucks look magnificent during the rut.

So when is the rut at Hagerman Wildlife Refuge? According to a three year study done in 1995, the timing of "the rut" varies depending on where you are in Texas. In the Post Oak Savannah region of Texas, which is where Hagerman Wildlife Refuge resides, the rut begins as early as September 30th and extends to January 16th with the average breeding date being November 10th. The biologists' study found that the does had an average of 1.7 fetuses and that 95% of the females had been successfully bred. The biologists also found that 92% of the fawns were born by June 17th. Grayson County lies adjacent to the Cross Timber Region where the rut begins October 13th and last until around the 17th of December. These dates might actually be more accurate for Hagerman. This is the most recent data I have found. This same study also pointed out that over half the White-tailed deer have twins and that triplets were not common, somewhere around 2%. I observed a doe with triplets in Hagerman last year.

My wife and I will hike into the backcountry at Hagerman in an attempt to photograph White-tailed bucks. We will set up a blind along some obvious deer trails and wait for the deer to pass by. This technique usually results in some close up images of numerous bucks. After a morning in the blind, I decided to drive to the west side of Hagerman hoping to see some bucks moving across one of the roads. I stopped on the Big Mineral bridge to photograph a Great Blue Heron in the creek. I had spent about thirty minutes waiting for a Great Blue Heron to fly from its perch in the creek, hoping to get a flight shot. When I decided to give up and put my camera down, the heron flew over to the shore. I again picked up the camera, hoping the heron would fly back to its perch. As I was following the heron as it walked along the shore, it walked into the edge of the water just as a beautiful 11 point buck strolled into my camera's view. Since I had my eye fixed against the camera body, the appearance of the deer in my viewfinder was a pleasant surprise. As a wildlife photographer, one must always be prepared for the unexpected.

Written By: Skeeter & Marolyn Lasuzzo, Photo by Skeeter Lasuzzo
Statistical data from a study and article found on Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

ED Note: Wildlife and nature photographers are invited to the Friends of Hagerman Nature Photo Club which meets bimonthly at 12:30 pm, at the Refuge. The next meeting will be on January 14, 2012.

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