Autumn Red Deer portraits
Autumn in the UK means my favourite wildlife event of the year, the annual rut of our deer species and the New Forest is one of the best places in the UK to watch this spectacle as we have populations of both Red and Fallow deer, Due to other commitments I wasn’t able to spend as long as I would have liked this year covering the rut in detail and spending the long hours it takes to capture spectacular rutting action, but given that the deer are present all around my home (literally, in the garden sometimes!) then there was no excuse not at least get out and capture some portraits.
Although we think of rutting as furious fights with locked antlers, there’s actually a bit more to it than that and a lot of it is quite subtle posturing and behaviour. One typical technique as shown by the stag above is parallel walking, where two males will just walk side by side a few yards apart, sizing each other up to see who is biggest. This will precede any decision to do battle.
Smaller males are often left to patrol the perimeter of any area where hinds have gathered, knowing that to move in amongst them will result in a challenge from more dominant stags. They bide their time waiting for any females to stray away from their protector or for his attention to be distracted by another stag.
Dawn and dusk are the best times to witness rutting activity as well as giving the best light conditions for photography but more than anything its just a thrill to be up close to our forest giants when their behaviour is at its most dramatic. Always be aware of your surroundings and give the deer respect during the rut, they can be aggressive but only if you get to close and pose a threat.