8 things to expect when you go to the deer rut
Around this time of year, a spectacular wildlife event is occurring up and down the country, THE DEER RUT! Here is a list of 8 things you can expect when you go to watch it!
1. To fall in love with (or confirm your love for) British Wildlife:
Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are often filled with shots of breaching orcas in Canada, jaguars taking caiman in the Pantanal or orangutans swinging through the trees of Borneo. Yes, these would all be out of this world to witness, but do you know what else is out of this world? The deer rut in Britain! Our largest land mammal, the Red deer - regal, beautiful and well…a beast - they are massive. Witnessing the rut is something special, and if you’re lucky enough to witness a fight, it sounds like lightening and sends shock waves through your body, a breath-taking event to witness - it will show/reassure you that Britain is home to some pretty spectacular wildlife!!
The beast himself (this was far from the biggest stag I saw yesterday, but still a beauty!).
2. To need extra batteries:
October is the most exciting month for the rut of Red deer, and we live in Britain - it is going to be cold and one thing that doesn’t cope too well in the cold is a camera battery! As a photographer you probably already know that time flies when you’re out with your camera, and the deer rut is no different. Fast-paced action means you often don’t have time to turn your camera off, you’re running from A to B to C to get the money shot and when you’re doing this for hours in the cold you need to have at least 2 batteries (preferably fully charged - yes I have taken empty batteries out with me before, let's move on).
3. To get wet/cold
I strongly recommend you arrive to whatever deer park you are visiting for sunrise, you may get some beautiful light and you’ll avoid the hordes of people who may just scare the deer away from you whilst you’re framing up your shot! October mornings are cold and often the grass will be dew-covered, so wrap up warm and get some waterproof trousers on to make sure that when you need to kneel or sit down to get the shot, you’re not getting soaked!
4. To hear some amazing bellowing
Red deer stags let out an amazing bellow to assert dominance over younger/weaker red deer and to defend his hinds (female red deer). This means that during the rutting season, the males are constantly bellowing, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you heard a stag before you saw him! If you’re lucky you may even be able to get a picture of him bellowing with a cloud of breath erupting from his mouth! Being Britain’s largest land mammal, their bellow is something that you won’t forget very quickly! The volume and power of it is something to witness!
Bellowing to win over some ladies.
5. To see some chases
When a male has his group of hinds (a harem) that he is protecting, it is not uncommon for another male to come and investigate. If this intruder is smaller/weaker he will swiftly be chased off, and wow, Red deer can get going! The smaller stag will get chased off to a safe distance before the king returns to his harem.
Not the biggest harem ever, but he was protecting it well!
6. To see male coalitions
Even though stags can breed when they are two years old, they rarely breed until they are over five, they just aren’t big or strong enough to compete with the bigger, older stags. It isn’t uncommon to see groups of younger, smaller stags hanging around together, staying away from the big guns, practising their fighting skills with one another for another year when it may just be their time to shine!
It just isn't their year.
7. To discover the secret agent within yourself
I fully understand that this varies from deer park to deer park, but the park where I go (Studley Royal) the deer are very aware of people and don’t like us getting too close, so you have to discover little tips and tricks that can help you get a bit closer to get your perfect shot (it is so important that you respect the animals and always keep to a safe distance though!). There are the obvious strategies - approach from downwind, try to stay low to the ground and don’t be too loud. I have also found a couple of tricks that I use to help me get just that bit closer - as stupid as it sounds, pretending that you haven’t seen them works a treat. Act oblivious and maybe they will think you haven’t seen them! Secondly, never walk directly at them, animals with that prey instinct are not too keen on potential predators approaching them straight on, curve your approach, and it will allow you to get that bit closer!
8. Finally, to get some amazing photos!
It is possible to get some amazing pictures of these regal beasts, especially in October when weather conditions can offer up some spectacular photo opportunities. With antlers that can weigh up to 15kg, these beasts can be utterly breath-taking. Ultimately, they are in a deer park so to a degree they aren’t going anywhere, so experiment, approach from different angles, get some tight shots, some wide shots, silhouettes, portraits – go wild!! (I absolutely don’t condone chasing them around the park, give them their deserved distance and if they start to look stressed, leave and try with another group). Don’t just pay attention to the stags, the hinds are indeed very beautiful too!
Here is a selection of some of my favourite shots I got.
Wide vs tight, experiment!
A beautiful hind.
One of the portraits.
Who knew they could be so rude!
My personal favourite!
I hope you enjoyed this blog - something a little different this time!
Thanks for reading,