Red Deer are arguably our most majestic species of wildlife within the UK. As our largest mammal, they can be found throughout the UK in Deer Parks or even wild in suitable habitats. They are one of the few species that can arguably be photographed throughout the year, but no time is more spectacular or exciting than the annual Deer rut which usually coincides with the changing of seasons in October. Depending on whether you go to a park or try to stalk them in the wild, there’s a few things you can do to increase your chances of success.
Visit more than once!
The date of the start of the rut often varies each year depending on the weather, temperature and conditions. It also varies from north to south, often with the North starting slightly earlier than the south due to colder conditions. It can sometimes take several visits before you’re lucky enough to witness some exciting action, so visiting regularly over October will increase your chances of seeing behaviour such as fights, bellowing and mating.
A Stag silhouetted by stormy skies.
Especially in parks there’s a misconception that the Deer are tame and tolerant to humans. Deer are in fact timid around humans, but during the rut stags who are pumped full of hormones can be aggressive and are less tolerant to harassment. Although there may be the temptation to approach closely to get great images, this not only stresses and disturbs the animals but also puts you at risk. It’s highly advised to stay back and use a long lens. This year I saw a couple of unfortunate situations where people have harassed deer to the extend of herding them towards other rival stags and harems which has lead to violent fights that would otherwise not have happened.
Don’t chase them
If the Deer are overly disturbed or uncomfortable with your presence the stag will often try to herd them away. If humans continue to chase or follow them too closely you only add to the level of disturbance where the Deer would otherwise settle down. This rule is pretty consistent for all wildlife photography, but if the Deer seem to have had enough and start to move away at pace, leave them be and go find new individuals to work with.
Bellowing from within the ferns.