A Little Planning makes for Great Trophy Photo

The second happiest moment for me as a hunter occurred when I went to the photo shop and picked up pictures of my buck of a lifetime. My happiest moment, obviously, was when I walked up and found that huge 8 point lying at my feet; the photos were just icing on the cake.

During the years since that fortunate occurrence, memories of the actual event have become faded and frayed. The photos, though, are still there, sharp as ever. My grandkids are somewhat interested when I tell about that buck. Their eyes light up, though, when I whip out the photos. This is why it is ever so important that good quality photographs are taken so such memories can be preserved right there in living color.

I have the good fortune of getting to write stories of big bucks taken in Louisiana each season for Louisiana Sportsman magazine and web site. I frequently receive photos of someone’s trophy, hunters who are obviously proud of their accomplishment but sadly, they didn’t take enough time to shoot quality photos. I’m unable to use some of the most poorly composed shots because they’re….well….just plain awful. The rack and body of the deer may be impressive but other elements of the photo don’t measure up.

Reposition as necessary, but take the picture as soon as possible after the kill, keeping the background landscape in mind.

With this in mind, I contacted friend and expert wildlife photographer from Tuskegee, AL, Tes Randle Jolly whose photos frequently find their way to magazine covers and full page spreads in some of the country’s most popular outdoor magazines. I asked Jolly for some tips to help the average hunter get the most memorable photos of their trophy.

“First, try and take a photo as soon as possible after harvest so you can capture the hunter’s excitement. You may have to move the deer to a more favorable spot to get the best possible photograph,” Jolly said.

“If there is a little rise in the land, put the deer and hunter on the rise so the photographer can be a little lower. This way you may be able to capture some blue sky behind them.

“Before doing that,” she added, “be respectful of the animal and clean it up. I keep paper towels in my pack to wipe the deer’s face, removing blood and debris. If blood has dried, I carry a spray bottle of window cleaner to soften dried blood and making it easier to wipe away.

“Sometimes it’s difficult to stop blood from oozing from the nostrils so I tear off a piece of paper towel to plug each nostril. Tuck the tongue back into the mouth.

“If the deer’s side is bloody, I also clean it, sometimes in a pinch using dried leaves. The main thing,” she added, “is to show respect for the animal you have just taken.”

I’ve seen photos of big trophy bucks hanging from the meat pole and sometimes over a gut bucket. I’ve seen photos of bucks in the back of a pick-up with beverage cans, sacks of corn or other assorted stuff cluttering the photo. Jolly says it is important to set up the photo for the most pleasing presentation.

“Prop the deer up on its chest and tuck the front legs under at the elbows. Have the hunter kneel or sit behind the animal holding the antlers but be sure you check the background before composing the shot, complying with your state’s hunter orange regulations with the hunter wearing his vest,” Jolly added.

While Jolly goes afield with thousands of dollars worth of photo equipment, she says that there are many point and shoot cameras available costing under $200 and good quality cell phones that work quite well.

Follow these recommendations from a professional nature/wildlife photographer to enable your photos to not only pop but those that lend dignity to the animal you photograph.

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