March 9, 2004

Deer herds

There is no easier time of year to find and watch deer than right now.

We have been having a spring thaw. There is still a lot of snow left, but in many places the ground is exposed. These glimpses of ground tend to congregate deer even more tightly then their social habits have them grouped right now.

Up in the northern part of Michigan where I live we can have winters that are very hard on deer. As the snow piles up to several feet the deer find it increasingly hard to travel and food becomes very limited. During the winter deer often group together and travel in each other's tracks. They are able to conserve energy by not having to break a new trail for themselves. Often I've traveled back to somewhere that I'd walked to earlier and found where deer had walked right over my tracks for exactly the same reason. And there are times when the snow is deep that I see deer struggling through the steeply snowed hills, climbing down onto an adjacent plowed road, and then strolling with ease down the road.

As the winter goes on deer tend to form larger, temporary groups. Right now the group sizes are at their peak for the year. In recent weeks I've traveled to the south part of the state where there are more deer and seen as many as 40-50 deer in a single group.

Today, as the last golden light was coming down it was very easy to find deer to photograph. The isolated patches of exposed ground are drawing the groups of deer like a magnet. They are finally able to get to the plants on the ground and feed on what remains of last fall's food.

May 24, 2002

March 10, 2004