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Once-avid hunter now takes aim at deer through his camera lens

December 04, 2005|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

WAYNESBORO, PA. - When Patrick Brezler hunts deer, his weapon goes click, not bang, and his prey always walks away after the shot.

The Pennsylvania woods these days are filled with hunters armed with high-powered rifles, and Brezler would have been similarly armed until 15 years ago, when he injured his shoulder in a military parachuting accident.

"I was an avid deer hunter," said Brezler, 62, of 359 W. Second St. "I hunted in states around here, in Utah and in Canada,"


After the accident, Brezler needed to shift to another interest, so he sold his guns and bought camera equipment.

Brezler started out photographing birds, "but I found it to be very difficult," he said. He soon learned that photographing deer wasn't going to be any easier. The skills that made him an excellent rifle hunter did not lend themselves to pursuing deer with his camera.

"I had to get much closer," Brezler said. "You could shoot a deer at 200 yards with a rifle, but you can't be more than about 30 yards away to get a good shot with a camera."

"I wasn't successful for years. My technique was bad," he said.

Brezler persevered, developed his skills and now has a scrapbook filled with his photos, not only of trophy bucks, but of ducks, geese, raptors, songbirds, small mammals, blueberries and some prize-winning shots of flowers.

One of his favorites is of a magnificently plumed wood duck drake that he photographed in the Mercersburg, Pa., area.

Brezler's photos have won awards in the Cumberland Valley. One, a red tulip, won best of show in a Washington County Museum of Fine Arts competition.

"When I was hunting, it was all very quick," said Brezler, who is president of the Antietam Photographic Society. "You'd see a buck and bang. It was a very fast event."

Capturing a wild buck on film is much harder and generates more adrenaline than lining one up in a rifle sight, Brezler said.

"It makes your hand shake," he said.

Killing a deer with a gun also leaves the hunter with the unpleasant chore of gutting the animal where it falls and dragging the carcass to the car, Brezler said.

Still, Brezler took home the deer he killed.

"My wife, Anita, and the kids butchered every deer I ever killed, right there in the kitchen," he said.

Brezler would hang the deer on his children's backyard swing set, cut it in half, then into quarters so the pieces could be taken into the kitchen to be cut again into freezer-size chunks, he said.

Hunting with a rifle only left him with a memory of the deer he killed, Brezler said, but "with pictures, I can share them with other people."

Brezler doesn't go into the woods during hunting season, he said.

Brezler photographs his subjects in local, state and national parks and on posted land. He likes the ducks and geese at City Park in Hagerstown. He's used his cameras in Acadia National Park in Maine and in Yellowstone National Park, among other places, he said.

"My philosophy is go where animals accept people," Brezler said.

One of Brezler's most recent and best shots was of a 12-point buck that he shot on Veterans Day using a high-powered lens. That shot was taken on private posted property.

"I was shooting some does when they suddenly jerked their heads up," Brezler said. "They saw this buck coming, and they scattered. He stopped for about 30 seconds where they had been and I managed to get two shots in."

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