It did not take me long to learn what I was missing out on earlier in the month. And like Elk county I have already began to take advantage of wildlife within a three hour drive. Working 10 out of 12 days over the holidays doesn't leave much time for photography, but with my son and I both off last Friday we decided ahead of time that I trip for whitetails was a must. Like the last time we were up at 2 a.m. and gone just before 2:30 a.m. heading down the interstate with visions of bucks dancing in our heads (I had to sneak a Christmas thing in there). We watched the weather all week and by Thursday night is was looking better, the rain had stopped so I did not have to drive in the dark and the rain. For those getting a little older or should I say more mature with fading eye sight a drive in the rain and dark is no fun. As we crossed the mountain between New Market and Luray my spirits went up when I noticed there was no fog present. That was a good sign that the meadows would be clear.
Just after 5 a.m. we pulled up to the entrance at SNP to find the darn cones up blocking it just like last time. You have got to be kidding me, not again, I felt like giving out the Charlie Brown AAAGGGHHHH!!!!! About ten minutes later a car pulled up next to me rolled down the window and inquired about the closure. After telling them what I knew (nothing), I said didn't we set and talk like this a couple of weeks ago? I quickly got a "your Brad, what are you doing here again". I have no idea how they remembered me or my name, maybe it was because I am sooo sexy, yes lets go with that one. Shortly before 6 a.m. a ranger showed up and inquired as to my destination. I said big meadows, then it was why are you going there. My reply was my son and I would like to see and photograph the whitetail deer. I then asked her when the park would be open and she said, it is now you may proceed. Now where I come from you do not take away cones and drive on unless you want trouble so I had no intentions of doing it in a national park.
Luckily we over heard the ranger warning the ladies of snow and ice around the 30 milepost in the park. We are back on the road and felling better again knowing we will still get to our destination before day break and it will not be foggy. But unlike other trips in I am not dodging deer. As we get to the area of the snow and ice the white knuckles came out on the wheel. Wow! it was slick. Time to shift into four wheel drive and downshift the truck. It was to bad we were not photographing in that area as everything was covered with snow. Next stop the visitors center at big meadows for the rest rooms. At this point I am thinking like the last trip we will pull out and the deer will be all over the meadows, I will be happy and Shane will be amazed. There was none to be seen. Not only no deer but no people were out. I don't mind the second part. And did I say it was COLD, well it was. The temperatures were in the 40's but it was very windy and it went right through you. Good thing we dressed in layers prepared for the cold.
For the day we seen between 50 and 70 whitetails, 17 that were bucks. Some I seen on the last trip, some were new and fantastic. We got to photograph deer while it snowed and sleeted on us, bucks grooming each other, playing and occasionally fighting. We did not see any of the other wildlife we expected or were hoping for but Shane did get to photograph a Peregrine Falcon (a piebald last trip, falcon this trip maybe it will be a bobcat next time). He now has subjects for future post including video. I have many more whitetail photos to share and even a greater excitement at getting back in January in the snow. Shane and I had a great boys day out and I look forward to many more with him. I do not think I seen your buck Jeff, but keep watching for others that you have probably already seen. Speaking of bucks I already photographed, the nine point buck with Shane was posted here on November 16TH. And for everyone out there I do not condone getting this close to a wild animal, they are unpredictable and can not be taken for granted. A larger lens like I used on this shot should be used to photograph wildlife.
Then came the drive home, tired with no one to keep me awake since Shane slept the whole way. The wind was very strong on the highway, it made you drive the entire distance with both hands on the wheel trying to keep the truck in a straight line. But I would not change a thing and I can't wait to do it again.