American Pipits And A Very Impressive Herd Of Mule Deer Bucks

Several of the bucks appeared to have trophy racks. But first the pipits.

Sorry, no image techs today. I simply ran out of time.


I only see American Pipits when they’re migrating and they’re so cryptic and inconspicuous in their typical habitat I’m lucky to see them at all. But when they’re not actually foraging for food on the ground they like to perch on rock piles and that’s where I found several of them yesterday morning. It was nice to get them with a clean background instead of the often cluttered and messy ground.



I really enjoy hearing their soothing soft calls.



For many folks pipits might be just another LBJ (little brown job) but I think they’re subtly handsome and I was happy to get a few of them in my viewfinder again.


But the most exciting find of the morning was a small herd of mule deer bucks with huge antlers on Antelope Island even though it was a highly frustrating experience for me. They were mostly sidelit and always buried within the vertical stalks of moth mullein so I never got any clear shots. And to make things infinitely worse within moments after I stopped for them my camera started acting up and intermittently wouldn’t autofocus. A few choice words (actually a lot of them) didn’t solve the problem so I missed some of the best opportunities in those rare instances when a huge buck would look my way in decent light.

But I did get some documentary shots that allow us to appreciate the size of those antlers.



Several of the bucks were impressive but this one got most of the attention of my lens because his antlers were massive and still bloody because he was in the process of losing his velvet which was hanging down in strands from his rack.



He was even impressive from behind.



Apparently they were staying in the mullein patches because they were often eating it. This time of year mullein typically has only a single yellow flower at the top of the stalk and they were particularly fond of picking off those terminal flowers but they’d also strip off the dried flowers lower on the stalk as this one is doing.



I was so damn frustrated and distracted by my camera malfunction that I never bothered to actually count the bucks but there were at least six of them, maybe more. Usually they were walking away from me so most of the time all I could see was antlers and assholes (sorry about that – must be my rural Montana upbringing again…).

Other than a very restricted trophy hunt the mule deer on Antelope Island are never hunted so some of the bucks develop spectacular racks of antlers in the fall. I don’t have high hopes for the largest of these bucks surviving the hunting season so I was happy to document them in their prime.

Last year the coveted deer hunting permit for Antelope Island auctioned off for $410,000, a world record for mule deer. Don’t even get me started about trophy hunting, especially in a state park!


PS – I strongly suspect that my camera problems were caused by dirty electrical contacts. Hopefully a good cleaning later today will resolve my focusing issues.




27 comments to American Pipits And A Very Impressive Herd Of Mule Deer Bucks

  • Miriam Reed

    Lovely photographs of the pipits and the mule deer. The “kill for fun” crowd that only hunt for a wall decoration are an abomination to me, but I can’t change their beliefs. I marvel at the amount of calcium it takes to build those antlers. It’s like a second skeleton. I wonder what they eat that provides that much calcium?

  • Love the pipits – and their call.
    The Mule Deer are amazing BIG brown jobs). The weight of those horns intrigues me. And the thought of trophy hunting turns me into the psycho bitch from hell.
    I hope you are right about the cause of your camera woes.

  • Dick Harlow

    These are great shots Ron, love em! If you count the ears, and heads, even the out of focus ears in the far background I would like to add one more buck to your six.
    The pipit shots are spectacular, from my point of view. No distractions, just pure bird before your eyes!
    I won’t start, just to say one would think we as humans would know enough about nature by the year 2000 or even earlier that it is the dominant buck that passes on its genes to the next generation. No, I would like to take up the rest of this space, but I won’t. I’ll just say a prayer for this dominant buck to survive this hunting season!

  • Patty Chadwick

    Sadly, as I understand it, Utah doesn’t have the greatest track record for NOT buckling under pressure when it comes to wildlife protection…ex. Crow hunting. It’s so sad that being the biggest, most beautiful, makes one a target for destruction, for being killed just so moron can cut off your head and put it on his wall…pathetic!!!

  • Charlotte Norton

    Super series Ron!


  • Great Muley shots Ron. I’ve been lucky on AI with the deer a couple of times. Though I live in CA now, I lived in UT for 28 years and had some great trips to AI from my home in Cache Valley. I enjoy your blog as it brings back memories of my former home. Zion Canyon gets some big bucks during the rut as well. FYI the biggest bucks I’ve ever photographed have been in Mesa Verde NP in Colorado, but that featured buck in velvet of yours is a contender!

    • Brent, the Antelope Island mule deer are “genetically unique” because of their large antlers so there’s a lot of interest in hunting them for trophies. I hope Utah doesn’t buckle further to that pressure.

  • Susan Stone

    I think the markings on Pipits are beautiful. I remain a big fan of monochromatic designs. And the antlers on those bucks are amazing. My reaction to “antlers and assholes” is that you are good at alliteration… I can’t wrap my brain around trophy hunting, and especially in a state park. I always thought the purpose of parks was to protect whatever was in them. But sometimes the powers that be are really stupid, so I thank you for sharing your encounter with the Mule Deer.

  • Marty K

    The pipit is so pretty. I’m another aficionado of LBJs and their beautiful markings.

    Those bucks are magnificent! Dropping velvet always looks like such a painful process, but he doesn’t seem to be phased by it in the least. And that rack DEFINITELY looks better on the deer!

  • Shirley

    Good morning Ron! The Pipits are so adorable aren’t they. One of my co-workers was stating yesterday that he feels there is a decline in the song bird population here so I emailed the lady that directed me to your Blog and she explained what she felt was the cause & it certainly made sense. We as humans need to be careful. Stunning deer, have never seen photos with the velvet hanging down like that and didn’t realize the antlers bled, thanks for the info Ron. I use a Nikon DSLR with a Sigma 150-600mm and I find that if there is tall grass between the camera and the subject that moves ever so slightly the AF cuts up a fuss so then back to MF I go. Thank you for all you do for us, what a great learning experience your Blog is for me.

  • I’m glad that at least there’s a permit auction now instead of the bloody free-for-all that the deer hunt was within living ( my ) memory. Such magnificent animals ! I’m so glad to see them !

  • Loved the Pitpits. They are quite lovely. And the mule deer were very impressive. I come from “hunt to eat” hunters but they would save racks like that. I thought of you on my vacation. I saw several osprey and one bald eagle hunting (and catching) their breakfast in the Salish Sea while I was walking a beach on Whidbey Island. 😀 I imagined you and Mia taking shots so I could see the birds better. 😀

  • Joanne OBrien

    Thanks for the great photos of a bird I would love to come across some day. I just love LBJs – they are all subtly gorgeous to those who care to look! The deer are spectacular too. And as for trophy hunters… talk about assholes!

  • Judy Gusick

    The Pipits are certainly beautifully, subtly colored birds. The Mule Deer Bucks are impressive! Would have some folks with their jaws dropped…….. More familiar with “assholes and elbows” for getting to work! 🙂