By Charles Towne
As a wildlife photographer, I have utilized all sorts of blinds. “Anything that works” is my motto.
In order to get the video footage I want, there are times I have set up a blind in the middle of a stream with a few interesting results, such as having a red winged black bird build its nest in one corner of the blind, and being visited by great blue herons, and alligators, or having a cottonmouth water moccasin swim through the blind and pause for a rest on my foot. Disconcerting? I would say so.
The British refer to the blind as a ‘hide’, and that is probably a better name for, after all, it is your object to ‘hide’ or ‘conceal’ yourself from your subject animal.
Almost anything can be turned into a blind. A clump of bushes to conceal yourself, with a good field of view at the front, is nice.
Here in Florida, one of my favorite blinds is constructed of palm fronds. I cut the long stem from the palm frond and jam the resulting shortened stem, with its palmate leaf, into the ground, thus forming a nice wall from which to take my photos. The neat thing about this arrangement is that the entire blind is bio-degradable.
I have used a tree stand, but prefer to be on the ground for several reasons, not the least of which is, if you decide to fall, you don’t have near as far to go. And too, photos taken from a tree stand have sort of an ‘up there’ appearance that is not really all that natural.
Some people, out of necessity, use what are known as ‘hi hides’, or blinds that are raised above the ground, far enough to keep one from large creatures with sharp and pointy claws and teeth, such as tigers. But, as you are aware, we don’t have tigers here, and as I have already indicated, I prefer to shoot from the ground.
Yes… draw me crazy with black and blue highlights… but if it is at all possible, I am going to shoot from ground level. And, the lower being the better. Photos of any animal are more impressive from a low angle.
Not long ago I dug a pit blind near a well used bear trail. A pit blind – being exactly what the word indicates – is nothing more than a hole in the ground large enough to hold yours truly, and the necessities of the day. And, in case you are wondering, said pit is roughly in the shape of a shallow grave. (Wimps have even been known to sit on a cushion brought along for just such a purpose.) Shooting from a pit blind enables you to aim and shoot the camera from the lowest of all practical angles.
On this particular day I had set my video camera on its tripod and settled myself comfortably on my cushion, and so began my vigil.
That is one of the things wildlife photographers do quite well – wait.
I usually bring a book along, something that will inspire me in some way, and I always carry a notepad and several pens, for I find that sitting and waiting is also conducive to creative writing.
I had been sitting there for perhaps half an hour when something caused me to look up. There, coming toward me, was a smallish bear little more than a hundred and fifty to two hundred pounds; what we refer to as a “long yearling.”
Now, there is an interesting phenomenon that occurs when a bear is walking toward you, and it is this: the closer it gets, the larger it appears. This rule can be applied to any beasty that possesses large sharp claws and pointy teeth.
When the bear was about fifty feet from me, it paused… laid down… and began eating acorns… and I stopped holding my breath. About half an hour passed, with the bear completely unaware of my presence, as she lay on the ground gobbling acorns while I filmed her.
Quite suddenly then, the missy bear lifted her head and stared down the trail. It was obvious my visitor was nervous when she jumped to her feet and continued to stare in the direction of whatever she had heard or smelled.
By this time my curiosity was definitely aroused, and I too, was also staring down that trail trying to see what was coming.
And then I saw it. Another bear! A BIG bear was coming down the trail.
The small bear had stood her ground, but when she saw that larger bear, she decided that she should be someplace else, and so she ran.
The only problem was, the large bear was walking toward the smaller bear and when the smaller bear ran, she ran directly… Straight. At. Me. I ducked down, and the bear ran right over the top of my hole! And… seeing as I was in my hole… that meant the bear ran right over me, knocking my camera over in the process!
Now, there are a couple of things one could do in similar circumstances.
You could lie in the bottom of your grave-like hole and suck your thumb. Or… you could thank the good Lord for taking care of old men, children and foolish wildlife photographers.
I opted to thank the good Lord.
There are times I would like to ask our dear Lord God, if there was ever a time during some of my escapades where he was tempted to laugh when he looked down, and saw me in such a situation as described above. Somehow, I am certain he must.
AN OUTDOORSMAN’S PRAYER
Dear Lord, thank you for giving us the ability to laugh, especially at ourselves. Please walk with me, and help me to always be able to see you as a loving God. How often have you saved me from mayhem, Lord? Praise you, and thank you for protecting me at all times, especially when I travel. Thank you for protecting my family from any harm that might befall them. You are always there, watching over us, and right now I ask for you to inspire me, keep me, protect me. I love you Lord, and I praise you. Holy, Holy, Holy is your name in all the earth. In our blessed Lord Jesus’ name I ask it, Amen
Charles Towne is first and foremost a Christian. An octogenarian, author, journalist, wildlife photographer, naturalist, caregiver, and survivor, his life has been and continues to be, a never-ending adventure filled with possibilities never imagined. He has adopted the philosophy that to Live fully, laugh uproariously, love passionately, and learn like there is no tomorrow, is a formula for a long and joy-filled life.