The annual deer rut is one of nature’s great spectacles. The mournful roar of a Red Deer stag, standing in dawn mist is the traditional herald for the start of autumn.
This blog features a collection of my favourite autumn rut images taken over the last six years. I love this time of year and working with the herd in the Royal Parks is hugely enjoyable, giving me a nice break from working with wild Roe deer which are a lot harder. It offers a fantastic opportunity to work with different qualities of light and use it to create images that would be difficult to achieve working with a wild herd roaming free.
A cold clear night at this time of year often yields a misty morning and spectacular atmospheric conditions in which to create some beautifully evocative images.
The Red Deer (Cervus elaphus) is Britain’s largest deer measuring around 1.37 metres at shoulder height.
The adult deer is characterised by its reddish-brown coat. The male’s antlers are usually branched and his rump is creamy in colour.
There is no mistaking a rutting Red Deer stag. The antlers become darker and thicker. He is further distinguished by a shaggy mane cladding his neck and shoulders making for an imposing sight. His fine red summer coat becomes darker also from the peat and mud he wallows in; and also absorbs the rank odour of urine which he sprays liberally in the bracken and other vegetation and then rolls in.
His roars fill the chill air as he struts stiff legged through his harem of hinds defending them against all rival males. Seldom pausing to eat or sleep he must be vigilant for the three week period as each hind comes into season.
Red Deer mate between late September and November when the mature stags seek out female hinds. They are only receptive for a 24 hour period during which he must mate with them to ensure his genes are carried to the next generation.
The loud, guttural roaring of a Red deer stag serves a variety of purposes, a declaration of size and strength, a challenge to potential competition, or a way of reaffirming status after a victorious fight. Over the years, I’ve witnessed quite a few impressive roars.
The rut is not all about roaring stags though, as some of my favourite images I’ve taken below hopefully show.
One of my favourite times of day to photograph at this time of year is the evening. The light has a particularly beautiful red quality to it perfectly complementing the season.
I’ve added a few images over the last couple of years to my existing autumn deer rut portfolio but there are still a lot of behavioural images I want to try to achieve to tell the whole story of the rut – which I guess is what keeps me coming back year after year.
Fallows deer tend to rut after the Red deer and are equally beautiful to photograph. I plan to spend more time working with this fascinating species that have roamed the British Isles since being imported by the Romans (not the Normans – that’s a common misconception) over the coming years.
One more blog to go before the end of the year on my work on a family of Roe deer living wild in a cemetery which I’ll aim to get up late November/early December to coincide with its publication for editorial.