For the last couple of years I have spent my summers in England’s southern counties following the annual Roe rut, criss-crossing Wiltshire, Hampshire and Dorset.
This ground is a stronghold for Britain’s original population of Roe deer as immortalised by Richard Prior in his book ‘The Roe Deer of Cranborne Chase’.
I’ve been very lucky to be given access to a number of private farms where crops including wheat, barley, oilseed rape and beans are harvested, providing some stunning backdrops against which to photograph the deer.
The Roe rut is very different from any of our other species of deer, coming between mid July and mid August each year. Contrary to conventional thinking, the precise timing of the rut is not set in stone though. A lot depends on weather patterns and changes in temperature, which I have learnt from experience, is critical and has a significant influence on rutting activity, either stimulating or depressing it. This also varies widely depending on locality.
The rutting period is characterised by a general restlessness amongst the roe population with intense periods followed by lulls. After several months of pre rutting activity from May onwards, and a number of false starts, the rut begins in earnest as the does come into oestrous. It is pretty much the doe that dictates everything. When she is ready to mate she will take her stand.
The rut provides a wonderful opportunity for observing rutting behaviour and you will often see the bucks chasing or trotting after the does.
Often you will find young experienced bucks moving about and encroaching on the territory of established bucks which can mean all out war.
Roe deer have incredibly sharp antlers and pumped up for the rut these encounters are often fights to the death.
I have to say working on Roe has been a huge challenge. The images you see here are the result of a lot of blood and sweat. The hardest I have worked on a project by some considerable margin, but perhaps all the more rewarding because of it. There is still a lot more to be done to tell the full story. I’m already looking forward to next year’s rut. I’ll shortly be announcing next year’s Roe Deer workshops. We are going to be changing it next year working on the basis of three day packages including bed and breakfast accommodation.
In the meantime, here are a few more of my favourite images from the last couple of summers. You’ll need to click on each image to see them at their intended resolution.
After the crop is cut it takes the deer a couple of days to work out the cover has gone…
I would like to thank my good friend Terry, for sharing his passion for Roe deer with me, teaching me the field raft needed to get close to them, sorting out access to the sites, not to mention his friendship. This blog is dedicated to you mate.