Aging El Chapo on the Hoof, 2017 – 2021

Aging El Chapo on the Hoof, 2017 – 2021

Pictorially demonstrating the aging process of a white-tailed buck — from its youth through its golden years.

Story and photography by Bob Zaiglin

It was a cold, dank mid-December morning with water droplets dangling precariously from the remaining leaves on the thorn scrub.  I was actually driving back to camp after enjoying an exceptional morning as buck activity was beginning to escalate, and I was getting excited about the possibility of capturing some exceptional bucks on film.  I was hunting, but with a camera.

I was attempting to locate several bucks I had filmed in previous years, and from past experience, I had a good idea where they would show up.  My morning excursion was rewarding as I came upon several bucks I had not seen in the past but failed to see those I was after so I decided to return to camp and grab some lunch.

As I negotiated my suburban over the rock-laden, eroded road dropping into an arroyo, I slowed down to avoid the larger rocks, and as I did, I glanced to my left, and standing amongst the blackbrush and guajillo-covered hillside was a tremendous buck staring at me.  As my vehicle came to a standstill, I rapidly grabbed my camera attached to a cumbersome tripod and heavy 400 mm lens.

Fortunately, the buck remained stationary and I was able to get several images before it ventured off into the brush.

My initial view of the animal took my breath away as its width alone was substantial and the abundance of non-typical points was the epitome of Nature’s artwork.  I was excited, but with the legs of my tripod secure on the floorboard and the lens resting on the windowsill, I captured some quality images, but in my viewfinder its body confirmation, including youthful-looking wide open eyes and squared-off nose, made me think the animal was only three years of age.  The buck also exhibited no fear of my movement inside the cab while situating my camera and actually appeared as curious of me as I was of him, which is a common behavior of young bucks.

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