PHOTOSTALKING
CWD
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PHOTOSTALKING



BEST TIMES
PhotoStalking of our wild UK deer is best done in the very early morning or late evening, dependent on weather conditions and where the deer are holding. Very occasionally, opportunities do present themselves in daylight hours but generally these are unplanned events. The weather is best when it's bright and sunny with a steady breeze of around 10-15 kts but it's even better when it's a good gale of 30 kts plus.

PhotoStalking is best achieved on your own but having an assistant can be a boon at times. To get the really good close up shots, the rutting season is the best time of the year which is generally between mid Sept. and mid Nov. (for woodland red deer). This is subject to climatic conditions and when the hinds reach their correct body weight which allows them to come into oestrus (when they are ready to mate with the stag). There are photo opportunities apart from the rut but the stags lose their antlers in late winter and they don’t grow back until the late spring so they aren't so photogenic. Who wants a pic of a deer without those fantastic antler racks ?

FITNESS LEVELS
You have to be reasonably fit and capable of extended hiking for around 2-3 hours for an average stalk. This will take you for about a 3 mile hike across country which equates to around 6 mls. of walking on flat level ground.

CLOTHING
You will have to have fully waterproof hiking boots or at the least stout shoe wear. No wellies.....they squeak too much and will make your feet ache like the devil. To get really close, camouflaged clothing in woodland colours is really the best but plain drab coloured clothing (dark greens / browns / buffs etc) will suffice on occasions. In actual fact deer are very close to being totally colour blind but their eyes are extremely sensitive to movement. You will need a camouflage face mask and gloves to complete the kit out.

CAMERA EQUIPMENT
A good quality SLR systems camera and a fixed or zoom lens of around 300mm. You will need an extending leg tripod to complete the basic kit. You can of course use longer lenses with a low F stop but these tend to be much heavier and when you're on an extended hike the weight of kit starts to tell accordingly.

BINOCULARS
Essential to have a really good pair of roof prism's that work extremely well in low light levels. These need to be around 8 x 42 (8 being magnification and 42 being the diameter of the objective lens). Without being too specific as to particular makes, get high quality binos which include Swarovski, Leica or Zeiss for instance. These are not cheap - around £1000 - £1500 but they will last a lifetime and often come with a single user lifetime guarantee. If there is only a small amount of moonlight they will still get you good results.

METHOD OF OPERATION
Every stalk is different as wind and ground conditions vary immensely but these are our top ten tips.

1) Don't wear strong smelling body sprays and don't shower before going stalking. In fact, try not to shower for a couple of days beforehand. Deer have an extremely well developed sense of smell and can detect a human being from over a mile away if the wind is in the right direction.

2) Make observations with plenty of time to spare over the previous couple of days. See what the deer are doing, where are they feeding and why.

3) Get into a position downwind where the wind is behind them and coming towards you. Gauge the position of the sunlight when you want to be in your final stalking location. It's best to have the sun behind you and shining directly towards the animals. Deer can't detect movement very well when they are looking into bright sunlight. Remember that a deer's eyes have developed over thousands of years to be function extremely well in low light conditions and in near total darkness.

4) Move at a slow pace with carefully placed steps without breaking dried twigs or bracken. Look for signs of fresh deer scat (poo) and fresh rubbings on trees and bushes. Look out for fresh slots (deer tracks) similar to the ones pictured below. Old Indian saying...move little and look lots. If you think that you've been moving too fast.....you have been......slow down, take lots of time, look around at what's happening that may influence your final stalk.


A Sika deer moving quickly (Note that the slots are pointed and slightly spread apart at the front end)
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A red deer moving slowly (Note the slots are more rounded at the front end and are quite close together)
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Sika and Red deer mixed - the slot immediately to the right of the coin at approx 4 o/clock is a sika (pointed) whilst the slots to the left at 9 o/clock belong to a red (rounded)



5) Scan the hedges regularly with the binos. In the mornings they will be close to the tree line ready to go back into the wood as the light levels rise and expose them out in the open. In the evenings, deer like to hide just inside the hedges or tree line until the conditions are just right for them to come out and feed.

6) Once deer are sighted crouch down as low as possible ready for making your final approach forwards. At this time, double check that the camera is on and fire off a few shots to check all functions are set correctly (Usually full auto with motor drive on. Remember, that it's best to get something in the can at this point. It's so disappointing if things don't work out as planned and you've got nothing to show for your hard work. Always try to get the camera on the tripod as it will pay dividends in reducing camera shake to the minimum.

7) When you are happy and the shots have been checked for exposure etc. commence your final stalk to get into your final shooting position / location. From here on in you must be on your own. At this time, be prepared for a body crawl to get in as close as possible. If you think that you've been spotted stay very, very still and don't stare directly at the deer but keep them in vision out of the corner of your eye. Very often they will carry on feeding after about 5-10 mins.

8) Ok, time for the finale. Again fire off some frames on auto and see how the animals respond. If they are settled, switch to manual and start getting the shots that you are really after. Keep the camera on motor drive at all times and try to get shots that present the deer in as natural a pose as possible without them looking directly towards you. Have a look at a couple of shots here and see how much more interesting the pose is if the animal is not looking (or facing directly) at the camera. If it's group of animals, all the better as the setting is more appropriate than just a solitary animal. Always frame up the picture as best as possible using the rule of thirds. Remember that it's best to get what you want out of the shot 'as is' without too much post processing on the computer.

9) When you are happy with what's in the can, stalk back out from the location using the same route as you entered. Don't just get up from your position and start moving around. This will spook the animals and they'll be off like a shot into the next county.

10) Leave the animals settled and contented, don't herd them and avoid unnecessary disturbances.

SOME FINAL ISSUES
Remember that you have a duty of care to our wild deer. Whilst they are in your jurisdiction you shoulder that responsibility. Apart from the issues regarding the welfare of the deer (which always takes priority) it's a good move regarding getting more shots either later in the day or indeed the next few days.

Lastly, do not disturb the deer when they are close to giving birth or immediately after giving birth. Do not under any circumstances approach fawns, kids, calves etc and if you do come across a new born don't get too near or touch it. It may look abandoned but that's quite normal behaviour for young deer and mother will be around, close by and out of sight feeding.

And finally.........good photstalking !


Produced entirely on an apple mac by Godfrey Evans