I spent a fabulous early morning last week in Bradgate Park to photograph some of the Red Deer starting the rut. Bradgate Park is an enclosed estate dating back over 8 centuries. The park encompasses about 830 acres of wild, rugged landscape that is home to a large number of wild deer, these are mainly Fallow but there are also about 50 Red Deer of all sizes in the park. During late September and October the Red’s are rutting. The dominate male stag will engage in displays of dominance including roaring, parallel walking, and fighting if necessary to see of any rivals. Serious injury and death can result from fighting but this only occurs between stags of similar size that cannot assert dominance by any of the other means. The dominant stag (pictured below) then ensures exclusive mating with the hinds.
As these animals (Britain’s largest mammal) are in a park that is open to the public they are used to having people around them. Therefore they are quite easy to get within a good photographing distance. However, these are wild animals and at this time of year potentially very unpredictable, so make sure you know what you are doing or go with someone else who knows! I would recommend a lens in excess of 400mm (I used a 600mm for these shots but often was too close) to ensure a frame filling image.
The younger stags are also full of testosterone at this time of year, whilst not competing for hinds because they lack the size of the larger ones they will still spar with each other for practice and to try and establish superiority – these minor skirmishes are rarely a full blown fight.
I highly recommend Bradgate Park if you want to photograph these amazing animals. You need to be reasonably fit as its quite hilly. But there a numerous well used paths and the walking is easy. There is a lot to see and photograph apart from the deer and it can get quite busy at weekends. So I would recommend an early start, mid week if you want to photograph the deer at this time of year.