Stop-Go-Stop-Go....

28th October 2012
...is what has seemed to of happened with the Red Deer rut this year. I never photographed the rut last year or come to think of it the year before that and with no other projects on the go and limited time, I decided to have a go this autumn.

I started of at Bradgate Park which is in Leicestershire, Bradgate has a good head of Red Deer and it's a fantastic looking park with old ruins, stone walls, ancient oak trees and fern/bracken covered hills. Unfortunately when I made my way into the park I noticed a huge amount of the ferns/bracken had been cut back, apparently to open up more grazing areas for the deer. This was a little disappointing as I wanted images of the Stags with their antlers covered in bracken, something they only do during the rut.

Moving further into the park I came across a few stags but all seemed a little bit too quiet considering it was rutting season, they should have been charging about rounding up all the females and fighting off any competition. Maybe I was a week early or something but it's normally well under way by the first week of October.

The early morning light came and went and I hadn't even taken a picture yet, I could hear a few Stags calling in the out of bounds area which was no good to me so I decided to take a walk over to the other side of the park in the hope of finding some more Stags. I'd forgotten how hard it was walking up the hills with all my kit and by now the sun was quite warm, I stopped for a quick breather and to scan the area with the lens. I couldn't see any Stags but I could hear one calling and he wasn't too far away by the sounds of it, I carried on to the top of the hill and it wasn't long before he came into view...







One of him trying to impress the ladies..



The light was getting a bit harsh by now and there wasn't a great deal else going on so I headed home with the intention of giving it another week before I went back, hopefully by then the rut would be in full swing.
A week passed so I headed back only to find the rut still hadn't really got going? Not sure why it was a stop and go affair at Bradgate, I'd heard reports and seen images from Richmond Park and it was in full swing down there. I wondered around for a bit, grabbed a few images and then headed back home..







As Bradgate wasn't really happening I decided to visit Richmond park in London, I'd never been to Richmond before but I was warned it was packed with photographers during the rut. With this in mind I went not really expecting to get much in the way of images but to get the lay out of the park for future visits.
The weather forecast was really good,clear cold night with a misty sunrise to start the new day. On arriving I made my way into the park heading for the sound of the calling Stags, the sun was coming up and the mist was starting to rise but no sooner had I reached the Stags the mist became a thick fog. I couldn't believe my luck, it would have been perfect if it had stayed misty, it hung around for most of the morning and I had to be elsewhere by the afternoon so I left the park a little disappointed but looking forward to the next trip.

Yet again for my next trip the weather promised so much but delivered so little, the fog was as bad as it was the week before and the park was very quiet, I couldn't hear any Stags. This years rut was turning into a disaster for me, I stayed around in the area where I had seen some action the week before and waited for the fog to clear.

As the fog was clearing I could make out a few females wondering around in the tall grass so I knew a Stag wouldn't be far behind them, sure enough as the visibility got better a big Stag moved in for the females..





His calling attracted another big Stag that moved in from behind me and was about the same size, it looked like a fight was going to break out..



I then noticed another big Stag behind to my left which was moving in and then another two big Stags coming in in front of me, I was now surrounded by five Stags and starting to get a bit worried. I had no cover and they were spoiling for a fight and getting a little too close for comfort, all of a sudden the two that came in from the front charged towards the females. I grabbed a few shots...



... but when they filled the frame and came towards me I stopped taking pictures and tried to divert the female deer that was coming straight at me with the Stags in hot pursuit. Thankfully she turned away from me taking the Stags with her but it was a close encounter I'd rather not have had..
After a bit of charging around and lots of calling, the first Stag that was on the scene won the day and the right to mate with the female deer..





It all went quiet after this so I took the opportunity to have a look around the park for some more deer and found some over in a wooded area..







On hindsight I should have visited Richmond sooner than I did, I was a bit concerned about the amount of people I would have to deal with especially being in London but I enjoyed the park despite it being so busy and I will definitely be going back for next years rut..

The final image from the day was of this Stag taking a break from chasing the ladies with the London Skyline as the backdrop...



Once again, thanks for looking...