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Nature photographers can learn from hunters

October 06, 2013 at 04:40 AM

The State Journal-Register

Let’s face it. We’re all hunters at heart.

Yep, even the photographers stalking backyard birds, neighborhood critters or sunsets. You, too.

In fact, many photographers take a page, or two or three, from the hunter’s playbook every time they head outdoors.

Have you ever concealed yourself, or waited a long time for a picture to develop?

Do you rise before sunrise or linger after sunset for the best opportunities?

Do you study your quarry, learning when certain birds come to the feeders or when the deer are most likely to be out?

Congratulations. You are a hunter.

Granted, your trophies are two-dimensional in nature, but for the most part, these two groups enjoy the outdoors in much the same way.

So, as the 2013 hunting seasons swing into gear, we pause briefly to focus on the hunters armed with Canons, Nikons, Sonys, GoPros or even smartphones.

This time of year, it is important that everyone play nice together. So here are a few tips for the photographer/hunters in the audience.

1. Always check in with the site office before heading out on foot to take pictures at state parks, nature preserves or other public sites where hunting is allowed. If you see a pickup truck in the parking lot, move on to the next spot. Give that hunter some space.

Note: Not all state nature preserves are off-limits to hunters. Some use hunting to control deer that can be hard on rare plants. Call ahead.

2. Wear an orange vest and hat in areas where hunters may be present from Oct. 1 to Jan. 19. It is always better to be safe. You can get a set for just a few dollars at any sporting goods or farm supply store.

3. Learn from your friends who are hunters. Consider going afield with them before the season starts. Learn about the placement of blinds and other strategies for getting close to wildlife. It builds goodwill, you get your shots, and the hunt can go on without the two interested parties bumping into each other later.

4. Some National Wildlife Refuges restrict access during migration to allow birds a place to rest. That doesn’t mean you can’t watch and photograph them. You just can’t go everywhere you could go in the summer. Again, check in with site staff.

5. Some places allow hunting only on certain days. Find out which days and go shooting photos during the off times.

6. Hunting often is impractical in suburban settings, but wildlife often are abundant in those places. Local parks and reservoirs offer plenty of opportunities. Many migrating birds use Lake Springfield as a stopover. Photographers won’t be in conflict with hunters there.

7. Respect private property. Hunters have to. So do you. Be aware of purple paint markings on trees or fence posts. This denotes private property. If you want to photograph in these areas, ask the property owner.

8. Pay your way. If you really want to earn the respect of your neighbor who hunts, buy a hunting or fishing license. You don’t need one to take pictures, but money from license sales pays the freight for the habitat projects and biologists needed to keep wildlife populations healthy.

Photographers benefit from that, too.

A sportsman combo hunting and fishing license costs $25.50. That’s less than a night at the movies.

Federal duck stamps, available for $15 each, help purchase land for National Wildlife Refuges. Bird-watchers and photographs benefit from the expenditure of duck stamp dollars, too.

Now you really are armed and ready for fall.

Good hunting — everyone.

Chris Young can be reached at 341-8487. Follow him at

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