Red Deer Rut

Silhouetted red deer stag standing alert in mist

Red Deer rut in the month of October, and there are many very accessible places you can witness this natural spectacle. I went for the first time with my husband John Stuart-Clarke to Bushy Park in London. The best time is at first light, before the park becomes busy with humans going about their daily activities.

We arrived shortly before sunrise after a chilly clear night which had created a dense fog. As we walked into the park grounds visibility was only a few feet, and I started to hear the bellows of the rutting stags.

Silhouetted red deer stag standing alert in mist
Silhouetted red deer stag standing alert in mist

The sound echoed in the fog and seemed to come from all sides. It was an eerie, atmospheric experience. Then gradually the fog thinned and I started to make out shadowy figures of the stags. As the mist cleared I witnessed more of the Stags’ rutting behaviour –  staring and snarling, licking their lips, tossing their antlers in bracken and charging each other. Within couple of hoursthe sun had risen, the park was filling with people and all the action had subsided and the deer settled down to rest. As we left it was funny to think that these joggers, dog walkers and parents with prams were using the park totally oblivious to the drama that had unfolded at first light.

Note: Please take care if you decide to visit a deer park during the rutting season. Even in parks such as Richmond, Bushy or Bradgate, where they are semi-habituated to humans, deer become extremely aggressive at this time of year. Several people are killed each year trying to approach too close to rutting deer.

Please exercise caution and common sense at all times and bear in mind the following hints and tips for watching the deer rut safely without disturbing the animals:

Keep a respectful and healthy distance away at all times when observing deer and be watchful for any sign of response to your presence or disturbance.  Retreat calmly straight away if you find any deer starting to stare, pull back its lips or show teeth – they are warning you you’re too close and they could charge. Always move slowly and steadily and avoid sudden, unpredictable movements. Keep your arms and tripods low. Never wave or try to attract their attention. Always avoid a deer’s path and move out of its route if one approaches you. Be aware of you position in the herd and avoid getting between a stag and his hareem of females or a mother and young, which could trigger an attack. Never approach a deer directly, head on or or from behind -antlers are daunting but they can buck and kick too.

Photo of the Month October – Stag Silhouetted In Fog
Taken: Bushy Park, London