Whitetails and Wood Ducks

Chilly autumn mornings in Missouri bring out rutting whitetails.

I settled in on the far side of our little pond this morning so I could watch for visiting wood ducks and rutting whitetails. My hide points to the west across the pond and up the hill toward our house. Wood ducks often drop in to munch on duckweed that always covers the pond in fall. They come in from the Bourbuese River, about a quarter mile away, but they usually flush back to the river, to my great disappointment, right before shooting time. If the wood duck situation doesn’t work out, as is usually the case, I often get nice looks at rutting whitetail bucks as they venture out of the woods onto the hillside right before me.

This morning, a pair of wood ducks dropped out of the sky only a few minutes after I had settled in. It was far too dark to shoot so I just sat and watched as the drake followed its mate around in circles as she explored her surroundings. I used to follow the woodies around with my lens as I waited for adequate light but I soon learned to resist that temptation as the slightest movement will send the colorful woodies right back to the river, crying their mournful song all the way.

About five minutes after the first pair showed up another pair flew downwind right over the pond. I crouched down in anticipation as I suspected they would pull a 180 into the wind and drop into the water right in front of me, which they did. As I thought to myself about how well the morning was going, a nice buck appeared on the hillside right across the pond from me. It was still too dark to shoot but it took everything I had not to swing my lens on the buck even though I knew it would most certainly put all four woodies back in the sky.

After an excruciating 15 minutes more, the sun began to cast a reddish glow on the field where the buck was making his rounds, checking scrapes and licking the limbs of a few large cedar trees that I have left standing in the field. Even though it was still too early to photograph the wood ducks I decided to take a chance with the buck knowing that the wood ducks would probably flush before shooting time either way. That’s when I made the featured image of the rutting whitetail and his little buddy.

A drake wood duck with its mate in the background.

A few minutes later, the whitetails disappeared into the woods so I shifted my attention back to the wood ducks. Hardly any light had made its way down to the surface of the pond, which is surrounded by trees, but I noticed that one of the drakes was getting antsy and looking my way. I figured it was “go time” even though the light wasn’t adequate to reveal the true beauty of the drake woodies but I knew it would soon be too late, even for a mediocre image. That’s when I captured the image above of one of the drakes with its mate in the background.

I was happy to get the shot because about a minute later one of the drakes began making a little peeping sound. After years of watching them I knew what that peep meant and seconds later they were gone, crying their way back to the river.

After the wood ducks skedaddled, I sat for a while watching yellow-rumped warblers, pileated woodpeckers, cedar waxwings, northern flickers, and robins as they came to the pond for a drink. Soon I saw a shadow from the right, across the pond, and it was that same buck with the extra-long brow tine, this time so close I couldn’t even get its entire body in the frame. Nice!

Up close and personal with the nicest buck of the morning. Check out that swollen neck.

The morning sun cast a reddish glow on the whitetail.

A final look at each other.

The buck hung around for another 10 minutes or so before sauntering up the hill where it joined some other bucks and a few does. I think I saw a total of four bucks and three does before I pulled up and headed toward the house. It was a great morning, chilly and full of action. I wish all mornings went so well but then none of them would be special.

Happy Naturing,


Email:  Natureframes@Rocketmail.Com

Gallery:  Danny’s Website

America is beautiful. I vote to keep it that way.





4 comments on “Whitetails and Wood Ducks”

  1. Beautiful picture!

  2. Wow! That was amazing. It would have been SO HARD to wait until there was light. But you’re right, you would have spooked the ducks. I was pleased to get some decent shots of ceder waxwings a couple weeks ago at a local rest stop of all places. Happened to have my camera, happened to have the right lens on the camera, happened to stop there to toss a cup in the trash. Spent a long time trying to get them in the right light, had a wonderful time.

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