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From shotgun to shutter: Hunter takes up photography to bridge gap between seasons

Courtesy Photo by Zach Johnson A male wood duck in brilliant plumage overshadows its mate, a hen that appears rather plain by comparison, as the pair swim along the English Coulee in Grand Forks.

GRAND FORKS -- Zach Johnson spends most of his spare time in the fall hunting waterfowl and deer, but the University of North Dakota student has started chasing the birds with a camera during the off-season.

The results to date have been favorable.

Encouraged by a couple of friends, one a professional photographer and the other a waterfowl guide and photo enthusiast, Johnson in February purchased a Canon Rebel T3i camera and a 55 to 250mm lens. He started carrying it with him everywhere, including a March trip to the Twin Cities.

Johnson figures he took about 4,000 photos of mallards and geese in a suburban Twin Cities pond that stays open year-round. He also has photographed wood ducks along the English Coulee in Grand Forks along with grouse, ducks and geese closer to his home near Roseau, Minn.

Given the choice, Johnson, 20, said he still prefers hunting over photography.

"That's a tough one, but getting a good picture of them might be a little more challenging," said Johnson, an elementary education major who just completed his sophomore year. "It's another hobby that can kill some time before season."

Here's a sampling of the wildlife Johnson has "bagged" with his camera.