Best places to see the red deer rut
For sheer drama and excitement, nothing beats the red deer rut. Here are seven locations where you can see this autumnal spectacle.
For months leading up to October, sexually mature stags have been preparing for the most important contest of their lives - access to a harem of fertile females. The fight starts vocally, and if this is not enough to ward off a competitor, rivals parallel-walk before locking antlers. Welcome to the red deer rut.
Rut activity peaks during the three hours after dawn and before dusk, so arrive early and be prepared to stay late. Approach downwind, use vegetation as cover, tread softly and avoid sudden movements. And always keep your distance.
1 Cairngorms National Park
Take a guided tour into the Braes of Glenlivet to watch rutting stags in a glen near Kymah Burn, as well as roe deer, red grouse and, possibly, golden eagles.
2 Isle of Arran, Ayrshire
The isle’s red deer number some 2,000, so you have a sound chance of a memorable encounter. Open moorland north of the String Road offers frequent sightings, and Lochranza Golf Course is good for close views.
3 Exmoor National Park
National Park rangers and private companies run guided walks and 4WD safaris looking for rutting stags. You might also spot Exmoor ponies, buzzards and dippers.
4 Westleton Heath, Suffolk
There are several ways to watch the rut at Westleton Heath. Peer through RSPB telescopes from a temporary viewpoint, or wander footpaths at Westleton Walks. For close photographic opportunities, join an RSPB 4WD safari.
5 Greater London
Though unequivocally less wild than the options above, at a deer park such as Richmond’s it is easy to photograph stags at close range among bracken-strewn woodland scenery.
6 Foulshaw Moss, near Kendal, Cumbria
A lowland raised peatbog that was turned into an experimental forestry plantation and is now being slowly restored to its natural state by Cumbria Wildlife Trust. Red deer stags rut out in the middle of the moss around mid-October.
7 RSPB Minsmere, Suffolk
Deer rut on the heath here, and will be among the cast of characters for the BBC's Autumnwatch 2014. For close photographic opportunities, join an RSPB 4WD safari.