Richmond and Bushy Park deer rut through the years
Throughout my stay in the UK, I’ve held a childlike fascination with the annual Deer Rut in some of the parks in and around London. To have such a wonderful wildlife spectacle within the city limits is indeed a treat for many who cannot make it up to the mountains and islands of Scotland or the wilds of Exmoor. Every year in September and October sees the biggest and strongest Red Deer Stags, bellow warnings, chase off rivals and try to cover as many females in their harems as possible. This is a full-time job for a stag on his stand, so, they don’t eat and live off their fat reserves for the duration of the rut.
Fights often break out amongst similar-sized males, and fatalities do occur, although most likely, one animal will yield with just the loss of pride and energy. If a resident stag is deposed and he will retreat to soothe his pride and lick his wounds. He’ll rest for a while before entering the fray again in an attempt to try and reclaim his herd of hinds.
Photographing the rut
Photographing this occasion is easier in the Parks as the animals are habituated to humans and their pesky dogs. You don’t need a 500mm lens because and with good bushcraft, you can get close to the group of deer and get decent shots with a 300mm. The hinds are the ones that must accept your presence because many will still have their previous year’s calf with them. If they are staring at you, remain still, if they are eating or relaxing in the grass, inch yourself forward.
Approaching in a zig-zag pattern will help them to get used to your presence as you enter their fear zone. I tend to work on one knee when getting close because standing behind your lens and tripod will be an imposing figure for most females, and they’ll slowly turn and walk off, causing more stress to the roaring male. The easiest way to get great natural behavioural shots of the species you’re photographing is to let them get comfortable with you. That’s why I do prefer using the big lens. That way, I don’t cause stress which is breaking the first rule of wildlife photography.
Images of the Rut
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