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Ecotourism on Florida's Space Coast
Titusville Outdoors

Whitetail Fawn Encounter

Buck Lake Conservation Area

by Dean Richard Pettit


When I first spotted it, I had been on the trail about 1/2 an hour. Already about fifteen minutes earlier I had spotted a wild turkey hen. Some movement at the edge of the trail ahead caught my eye, the first wild turkey I had ever seen. The trail wound through some scrub habitat and I walked along with my wide angle lens attached, figuring to take some landscape and habitat shots. I was totally unprepared for her. I spotted her as I was looking to the left of me, Unfortunately, she had seen me as well and as wild turkey's are notoriously skittish, it was way too late for me to switch to my longer lense and get a shot. She ran ahead of me down the trail and I never saw her again.

Now I was ready, the turkey sighting had convinced me to walk quietly with my 200 mm zoom lens at the ready and onward I trekked hoping for a turkey or possibly even a deer. Both are supposed to have good population numbers here.

The trees aside the trail began to get taller and the vegetaion began to change to a wetter habitat type. Then I saw it. A shape on the trail along the right side as the trail went around a bend to the left. A brown shape with white spots.

I froze, just as it raised it's head and stared straight at me. A whitetail fawn, curious, yet cautious. It began stepping towrds me, ears moving in every direction, trying to get some idea of who this intruder was. Then it would step back, then to one side then the other.

This went on for what seemed like several minutes though it was probably about one. I fired off several frames, half tempted to mount the camera on a tripod to steady my shots, yet afraid the extra movement would spook him. The fawn's tail was waving back and forth, then it went went straight up, displaying the trademark white flag and I had a feeling our encounter was about over. Sure enough it quickly turned and bounded away, followed right behind by it's mother. Both white tails raised high they quickly disappeared into the thick brush. I hiked for about another mile hoping to spot another deer or turkey but to no avail.

One week later, I was looking over the slides and made up my mind right then and there on two things. First, while hiking in game country I will always hike with the longer lens mounted and ready. A landscape will wait for you to change lenses if you see a shot you want to take. Animals will not.

Number two, I will always keep the camera on a tripod. While the shot in this article clearly illustrates the fact I saw a deer, my camera movement combined with the length of my zoom lens caused considerable blur meaning that this photo and the other two I got will likely never grace the page of a magazine or any other publication, nor will it ever grace my wall. Even just using the tripod as a monopod with the legs closed would have resulted in a sharper image. Still, I can't say I'm too disappointed, just another lesson in wildlife photography reinforced, and to spot one turkey and two deer in less than an hour and a half on a short morning hike is definitely a great way to start a Sunday morning.

Dean Richard Pettit.

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5/13/02.