Last week I was sent to Tennessee for work. I have to say that Tennessee is one of my favorite states to visit. The weather, the smell of nature, the sight of greenery and best of all - the animals and nature. I love it all! This time, and the last, I went to Cades Cove. It is a nature lovers paradise. There is an 11-mile loop that you can drive around at 2o m.p.h. and stop and take photos. You can hike it or bike it, but I love to drive it. 7 months ago I got some great photos of some bears. This time is was of a big 9-point buck. He was my muse.
My day was interesting. I got to the park at 6:30a.m. There was a line of 12 cars ahead of me. Within an hour there were 30 cars behind me. The loop opens at sun-up and we had to wait patiently. Once it opened, I drove the loop once and got some sunrise pics, but that wasn't enough for me. Oh, one other thing my dad taught me when it comes to nature was to trust my gut. My gut was telling me the animals were just moving around and I'd have more to see. I made the drive again and I was not disappointed. I saw lots of deer, a nice 6-point buck and he rose and began feeding and his does meandered nearby. I got about 3 miles in and the line stopped. I figured there was a bear ahead and I'd get some cool shots again. I waited for 15 minutes, but the line didn't move. There were about 50 cars ahead of me. So, I did what any photographer would do, well, maybe some of us photographers. I parked the vehicle, grabbed my gear and hustled ahead on foot. I had to quickly walk about an eighth of a mile and there he was. No, not a bear. A very large, beautiful 9-point whitetail deer. He was watching myself and two other photographers and then made his way through a hedgerow. I quickly got to the other side and set up. Once he appeared, I was ready. Click-click-click-click-click. I was shooting quickly and my jaw must have hit the ground. I stood about 20 yards from him and he looked right at me. I cannot begin to tell you the amazement, happiness and wonder that went through my mind. I can only tell you that I have never been so close to a large buck like that. I moved along with him as he made his way across the field. I even got ahead of him a few times.
Oh, and one thing my dad also taught me, which I almost got in trouble with, was to anticipate where they will be and be ready. Well, my dad taught me too well. If you remember back in April when I first encountered the big bear, I was right on his trail as he walked towards me. I did it again with the buck. I stood near his trail and watched him edge closer, and closer, and closer. That was when I knew that he was in rut, I was in his way and I needed to move aside. He even waited in some trees until I had moved before he continued on. Absolutely amazing. Dad, thanks for showing me so much insight into the minds of animals and how to anticipate. Otherwise, I might be bear food or a pin-cushion!
Here are some of the photographs I captured on that wonderful day. This is my favorite slideshow to date. Please enjoy.