The big whitetail buck was slowly browsing near the dugout, he had one of the most unique racks I had ever seen.  Both main beams swept forward in a paddle like formation more like a moose than a whitetail.  I wanted a shot at this whitetail.   I slowly crawled towards a small patch of wolf willow that I figured would put me in a good position if he followed the path I figured he would.  The buck now had a companion and the doe would occasionally look towards me as they worked my direction.  She would only pay attention for a second or two, so my ghillie suit must have been doing its job.  The buck had now worked his way to within 35 yards and I prepared for the shot.  As the buck stopped to look in my direction I took the shot.  I then shot again and again. The buck slowly continued on his way out to feed.  I was ecstatic as I knew my shots were direct hits and the buck would continue on for me to shoot again another day.       

            Photography is a great way to extend your hunting season and to shoot animals you would otherwise let walk if hunting.  It is great practice if you are into spot and stalk and allows you to hone your skills on getting close to the animals.  The distances required to get a great photograph closely mimic bowhunting distances. The more time you can spend up close and personal with the animals you are after the more successful you will be once the season starts.  Photography allows you to spend more time out in the woods observing animal behaviour and this will do nothing but help you once archery season rolls around.  The great thing about photography is you are not limited to shooting a specific animal or species.  Many times I have went out with the intention of getting some deer photos when I happen across a bird of prey or other animal of interest which will totally change my focus for the day.  You are also not limited to specific season dates.  Photography is a year round sport and you can always find something to shoot no matter what time of year it is.  For those who like to have something to hang on your wall as a trophy you can still get a framed print of that special shot which looks great on the wall.  It can really be a bonus to get a great shot of a buck and then harvest him as well.

            Photography is like any other hobby and can get very expensive or not so much depending on the equipment you use.  Now a days with digital format cameras it is easier than ever to get out and get wildlife photos.  There are many point and shoot cameras on the market which will give you great results in the field.  When looking at point and shoot cameras, which will be your cheapest option, you will most likely want to get one that has at least a 10X optical zoom lens on it.  This will allow you to zoom in on the subject and not have an unrecognizable spot in the middle of your photo.  Many companies including Canon, Fuji, Panasonic, Sony and Nikon make cameras that will have at least a 10X optical zoom and some are up to 18X zoom.  Forget about digital zoom as it does nothing but degrade your photos.  Any cropping that may need to be done can be done on software on your computer.  Another nice addition to the camera is Image stabilization.  Image stabilization will allow you to shoot at slower shutter speed while still getting a crisp image.  This is something that comes in very useful in low light situations which you may encounter quite often when photographing wildlife, especially deer.  Some of the pros of a point and shoot camera is that they are usually fairly compact and light which will make them easier to carry around.  A second advantage of point and shoot cameras is that they are usually quite a bit cheaper and will suit a photographer who might be on a tight budget.  The photos they produce are still of high quality.  A couple cons of the point and shoots are that they can limit you in some ways.  They tend to have more background noise at high ISO ( basically this means your photos will appear somewhat grainy when shooting in lower light conditions).  They also do not have the flexibility of removable lenses which can limit your creativity with your photography. 

  If you want to spend a little more money you can invest in a digital SLR camera which will have removable lenses and will, overall, give you more options and allow you to be more creative with your photography.  SLR’s will tend to be heavier, and when toting around your extra lenses, quite bulky.  SLR’s and their lenses can also get fairly pricey.  Usually with this option you will buy a camera body and the lenses will be bought separately.  This is where it can get costly as some lenses will run in the several thousands of dollars.  Don’t let this scare you however, as there are many lenses that will fit nicely into most budgets.  Lenses are available with image stabilization just like on point and shoot cameras and some bodies are even coming out now that have image stabilization.  A good 300mm lens is a good starting point for wildlife and also a wide angle lens for landscapes is nice to have.  There are many zooms which cover a large focal range and these can be very usful ( eg sigma 50-500mm).  My dream lens would be a Canon 600mm f/4 IS lens but at around $7000 dollars I will have to keep dreaming.  Again there are many companies that makes digital SLR cameras to fit most budgets including Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Sigma and Sony.  Which camera you purchase, much like which bow you purchase, is a personal choice and there are many photography review sites on the internet to help you make your choice. 

            Some of the accessories I feel I must have for my photography include a monopod, which is what I will generally use when taking wildlife photos.  It still allows some support for the camera to help with getting crisp photos and is still quite manoeuvrable when dealing with wild animals.  A tripod is also a must have.  I use it more for landscape photos, macro photos or long exposure photos but it can also be used for wildlife.  It will provide you with more support than a monopod and allow for a rock solid base.  As with any hobby there are countless accessories including filters, flashes, camera cases, additional lenses, storage media, laptops etc etc. that you can purchase as you find you need them.  It can be as simple, or for those who like the latest and greatest technology, as complicated as you want to make it.  The basics you will need are a camera a lens and a subject.  The most important thing is to get outdoors and enjoy mother nature and the animals we all love.

 Throughout the next year I will try and keep you up to date on how my photogrpahy is going in the field and share some of my photos here with you.  Hopefully it will get some of you interested in a great hobby.