Photography courtesy of Lowell Washburn, all rights reserved.
Following a brutal three day siege of polar air and gusty winds, the North Iowa weather had finally moderated to a comparatively balmy minus twenty degrees. Winds had diminished to the point where wind chill values had risen to minus 46, according to the weather channel.
At the Nature Conservancy’s Clausen’s Cove [located along Clear Lake’s south shore] deer and turkeys were emerging to feed in adjacent open fields by late afternoon – the first time most of them had been out since the storm began. As the sun dipped to the horizon, I decided to take a short hike into a woodland on the east side of Farmer’s Beach Road. Silent and undisturbed, the timber was stunningly beautiful. In spite of winds which had previously gusted beyond 50 mph, the snow was clean, soft, and quiet. Spotting a pair of yearling white-tails, I decided to see how close I could get. Slowly moving back and forth, acting generally disinterested, and avoiding eye contact; I eventually came to within twenty yards of the closest deer. It’s amazing how tame deer can become – especially young ones – when the weather gets really cold.
By now, the sun had set and the light was low. Steadying my lens against a trunk, I managed to take five shots. The attached photo is the one I think best captures the feel of the snowy woodland – the deer’s muzzle is covered with clean snow, her ears are pricked up from the sound of the camera, the last rays of sun capture an ever so slight glint in her eye.
Turning around, I was able to back off without spooking either of the two deer. When I looked back from 40 yards or so, one deer was still watching me while the other nochauntly browsed on understory twigs.