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Rippingale nature columnist reflects on deer rutting season





I walked into the wood shortly after first light and immediately my ears were assaulted by the bellowing of fallow deer bucks, writes Rippingale nature columnist Ian Misselbrook.

The rutting season was upon us. In addition to the roar of the bucks I could also hear the squeaks and whimpering calls of the does as competing bucks tried to gather them into their separate harems.

As I made my way as quietly as I could through the wood, I saw that some of the does were still leading half grown fawns and they seemed to be trying to avoid the areas where the rut was in noisy progress.

Fallow does. Photo: Ian Misselbrook
Fallow does. Photo: Ian Misselbrook

One light brown buck was bellowing inside the wood but it did not seem to have any luck attracting the does. The main action was in the field adjacent to the wood where some very impressive heavily antlered bucks had already succeeded in gathering their harems of does.

Younger bucks with small antlers hung around the periphery; too weak and relatively ill equipped to challenge the dominant bucks. Perhaps their time will come?

The very large herds of fallow deer that reside in many of the woods in our area are very variable in colour. Some have the dappled coats that have made them so popular in captive park herds but the range in colours goes from pure white through light and dark tans to very nearly black.

Fallow Doe. Photo: Ian Misselbrook
Fallow Doe. Photo: Ian Misselbrook

I was determined to photograph some of the deer, but I had foolishly left my 500mm telephoto lens at home in favour of a smaller and lighter 300mm lens. This meant that I had to make a much closer approach to obtain the images that I wanted. I moved quietly towards the edge of the wood ensuring that the prevailing breeze was blowing from the deer herd to me and not blowing my scent directly to the sensitive nostrils of the deer.

I banged off a few shots with my camera before I reached the edge of the wood, but my desired quarry was a magnificent almost black buck rounding up his does in the field some distance from me.

Fallow does. Photo: Ian Misselbrook
Fallow does. Photo: Ian Misselbrook
Ian Misselbrook
Ian Misselbrook

I emerged from the edge of the wood. Normally all the deer, including this heavily built buck, would shy away from any human. However, this beast was fired up with testosterone and even as I stepped out of the wood into its field the large buck stared at me and roared loudly. I must confess to finding this somewhat unnerving, but I succeeded in obtaining the desired photographs.



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