Bradgate Park in Leicestershire is one of the best locations in the United Kingdom to watch and photograph the annual Red and Fallow Deer ruts. Whilst the deer are within a deer park and used to the presence of people, care must nonetheless be exercised during the rut with the testosterone pumped stags as they aggressively defend their harems of females.
Arriving well before dawn each morning, I was fortunate to be able to enjoy the solitude of walking into the park with only the sounds of the stags bellowing unseen in the dark to accompany me. As dawn finally arrived, I was pleased to find both Red Deer and Fellow Deer in one of the best early morning locations for photography.
The rut seemed to take longer than usual to get going this year and this may have been as a result of the warm and wet weather that prevailed in October. Although there are many Fallow Deer at Bradgate, my aim this year was to focus on the Red Deer rut.
One particularly impressive Red Deer Stag, having developed a fourteen point set of antlers, had established a sizeable harem of females. Throughout the day, this stag would defend his does against any challenger that dared to enter his territory.
Try as they may, the younger stags were no match for the older more dominant males and were left to watch from the side lines.
One of the attractions of Bradgate is that the park has many locations that each offer different light at different times of the day to work with. At one location the deer can be photographed back lit against the setting sun.
At another location, with a bit of luck, the Red Deer can be found silhouetted against the sky at dusk.
After the sun has set there are still opportunities to make images of the Red Deer. One evening, shortly after the sun had set and just before all of the colour had gone from the sky, a group of deer crested a small rise above were I had set up and were silhouetted against the cool blue of the early evening sky.
Making an image of a Red Deer Stag bellowing as it was silhouetted against the twilight sky was a great end to a long days’ photography.