How did She See That?

I have a dear friend, Annie, who moved to Washington from Minnesota. One day Annie happened to mention that since moving here three years ago she had never seen a deer. I was astounded, as we live in an area with an abundance of deer! I suppose that if she stayed in town the lack of deer sightings could be understandable, but she often traveled out of town into areas heavily populated by deer. How could she have never seen even one of them?

A few weeks after she told me this news Annie and I took a short road trip together.  As we drove through a rural area I spotted five deer standing in the brush just a few yards off the road.  Annie didn’t see them until I pointed them out.  This experience was repeated a number of times on subsequent trips, with me pointing out deer here and there that she hadn’t noticed.  After a bit of coaching from me, Annie finally began picking a few of them out on her own.

Over the years I have earned the nickname “Eagle Eye” for my prowess at locating both animals and antlers. I can pick out many types of wildlife in any terrain, often while driving down the road at highway speed. I can do the same with shed antlers; many times I have spotted antlers while cruising along well-traveled routes. I get a special sense of satisfaction with these finds when I think about how many people have driven past these same antlers without seeing them.

So what is it that gives me this uncanny ability to see these things? Do I have superhuman vision?  No, just regular old 20/20.  Was it a skill I was born with?  I don’t really think so.  I believe it is a skill that anyone can learn.  It takes practice and it takes spending lots of time looking, and I mean really looking, at a lot of country. Look at as many animals as you possibly can and notice their features. What color are they? Learn color variations in different seasons. In the spring, when deer are changing over to their short, red-colored summer coat, they will often stand out like a sore thumb against the green background.  But during the fall months, as their coats change back to a more gray shade and previously green grasses have turned yellow-brown, they will blend in and vanish.

The more territory you look at the better you will get at finding hidden animals.  You will learn to pick out pieces of the animal: the flicker of an ear, a white rump, the tip of an antler. Use optics to get up close and personal. First, scan an area over with your naked eye. If you see something you think might be an animal, use your binoculars to verify it. Then use your binoculars to scan the entire area. You will be amazed at how much you can miss with the naked eye. I have spent fifteen minutes scanning a hillside with my naked eye, thinking there was nothing there, and then looked it over with binoculars and had deer suddenly materialize.

When looking for animals while driving down the road, the same principles apply, but must be done very quickly. Animals in the open are naturally easier to see than those along the fringes or among the trees. Quickly scan the open areas, and then refocus on the less obvious areas. You are looking for anything that looks different or out of place. When something catches your eye, take a closer look. Of course, there is only so much you can see when you are speeding down the highway and it is not uncommon for me to stop or turn around and go back to take a closer look if I am pretty certain I have seen something that I want to get a better look at.  I always have a good set of binoculars in my vehicle for this very purpose.

When looking for antlers, similar principles apply.  However, there is a different level of focus when searching for antlers.  I have found that when looking for deer or other animals, I cannot simultaneously look for antlers.  I can look for one of the other, but not both at the same time.  I compare it to those stereogram images (pictures that become three dimensional if you focus on them in a certain way):  With one level of focus you can see deer or other animals in the open. With the next level of focus, you can see more camouflaged or hidden animals, and with an even deeper level of focus, you can find antlers.

Again, like looking for animals, look for pieces of the antler; a white “button”, the curve of a main beam, a fork. If something catches your eye that you suspect could be an antler, take a closer look. Binoculars are an invaluable tool for this purpose and can save you many wasted trips up a steep hill or down into a canyon looking for an “antler” that was really only an antler-shaped stick or old bone.

I find that now, after years of looking for animals and antlers, I am doing it constantly, often without even realizing I am doing it. Perhaps this is why I see what I see. The more practice and experience you get, maybe someday you too can impress your friends with your animal-spotting ability and earn the nickname “Eagle Eye.”


Mar 13, 2013 | Category: Blog | Comments: 1

 

One comment on “How did She See That?

  1. Bowtechfeller

    Too funny. That gaze for me is almost, well, it is addicting!!

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