it comes to photographing bobcats there are
a number of techniques you can use to
improve your chances for getting great
images. All feline predators, like
bobcats, are extremely difficult to
photograph. Unlike high country lynx
and ghost-like mountain lions, bobcats are
the most numerous feline we have in North
America, particularly in California where I
lead Bobcat Safaris. While luck is
hard to quantify beyond just hours
searching, these are the other tips that will
help you be successful.
Your first tip is to spend your time in
areas where you have seen bobcats in the
past. If you haven't seen any, then go
to areas where others have seen them.
I've shot bobcats in Yosemite Valley,
Sequoia National Park, and the foothills on
both the east and west sides of the San
Joaquin Valley, along Highway 1 south of
Carmel, around San Simeon and Cambria, and
around Pinnacles and south on Highway 25,
and in many other places, like Highway 58
from Bakersfield to Tehachapi, then north
along the Eastern Sierras.
My bobcat safaris all run between
mid-September and mid-March. Why?
Because the bobcats seem to be more active
hunting in the daylight during these months
and are easier to find. The hot days
of late spring and summer result in fewer
bobcats out hunting in the heat, spending
more of their time hunting at night when
it's cooler. I did photograph a bobcat
in July once in 103 degree heat (sitting in
the shade hunting - caught a squirrel), but
just once. So fall and winter are
going to be your most successful months.
UNDERSTANDING FOOD SOURCES
While all predators will feed on voles and
gophers, here in California the number one
meal is the California Ground Squirrel. They
are numerous, much larger than voles, and
slow when compared to the speed of a bobcat.
While I do see bobcats early, I have far
more encounters about 9-9:30am when the
squirrels come out of their holes.
Generally speaking, no squirrels equals no
bobcats during the day.
VEHICLE AS A BLIND
Unless a bobcat
goes up a tree (rare), or runs into a
culvert (rare), or simply ignores me for a
period of time in my truck (also rare) - I
will never leave my vehicle to photograph
them. Having said that, there have
been times when I've tripoded up, but only
on rare occasions when they were too
preoccupied hunting, eating, or just
ignoring me that after I have already shot
hundreds of images, then I'm willing to push
them a bit and try for a closer approach.
That is very rare.
The minute I get into bobcat country I make
sure that my camera equipment is completely
ready to go. The right (longest) lens
is on my camera of choice, iso is set for
the current light conditions, and I'm
shooting wide open at the lenses maximum
f-stop. Why? To start an encounter
with the highest shutter-speed at my given
exposure settings. I can always stop
down some if speed isn't needed. In my
truck I have my camera resting on the center
seat shelf created by the center front seat
being folded down.
Bobcat encounters are sudden, and create a
flurry of motion initially. The window
goes down (if it isn't down already), the
camera comes up, focus, and shoot.
Concentrate, or even practice, at getting
the camera on line with where you want to
aim - so that initial second where the
camera focuses is on-target.
This little $8 dollar
predator call, from Knight & Hale, is worth it's weight in gold
when it comes to stopping a bobcat in its
tracks, or a coyote, or an owl - or anything
that preys on voles. Once a bobcat
turns away from you it will not turn back
unless you have a call like this. It
may only stop for a second or two, but
that's another dozen images of a bobcat
looking back at you. Good Luck.
you have a great tip that I haven't
mentioned here, send it to me and I will add
it to this TIP Page. BRP