The Deer Rut 2019

I don't usually start trying to photograph the deer rut until into October but after some awful weather in late September I wanted to get out and shoot. Fortunately I had booked a day off from work on Monday 29th September and after heavy rain the day before the morning was forecast to be clear and cold-perfect for mist and golden light.

The night before I also managed to convince my middle son (aged 16) to come with me and, to my surprise, he was dressed and ready at 5:30am for the trip to Bradgate Park.

As we arrived I wasn't hopeful-normally you can hear the roar of the reds resounding around the hills as you walk in but this morning was very quiet. However just before sun-up we saw a mature red with several hinds nearby. I was able to get reasonably close as he was near to the public footpath. With an 800mm equivalent focal length on my camera I was able to get this portrait.

The hinds meanwhile were gathered together in the rising sun...

Then the stag suddenly began to walk off. I took some photos of him as he went. My son then told me that a bigger stag was approaching the hinds and he clearly wasn't in the mood to contest them.

The new male asserted his authority with a few roars as the mist rose in the warming sun.

Some younger males looked on. Not ready to have a serious attempt at the rut this year they were nonetheless seen off by the mature male.

After about ten minutes the big stag led the females into the woods where public access is forbidden. I thought that was that but he re-emerged for a moment to give a last warning to two nearby younger males. As he stood half in and half out of the sun I got a few shots of him with his misting breath backlit by the sun before he turned and disappeared in to the ferns.

For a long time I've wanted a clean shot of a big red roaring with a golden mist backlighting him. I've had a few reasonable attempts previously but the mist and light on this morning was sublime. For just a few moments the hinds moved away and everything came together.

I've been coming to Bradgate most Autumns to photograph the rut but the colour and atmosphere of light on this morning, shining through a low mist, was breathtaking. To be able to share it with one of my sons was the icing on the cake. He said to me as we walked back to the car "if I'd stayed in bed I would have missed all of this". And that is the lure of early morning photography. Whether shooting landscape or wildlife, the effort to get out is always rewarded by rare, memorable, sights that the rest of the world miss.


All images shot on a Panasonic G9 with Panasonic Leica 100-400mm lens. All the above images are copyright.