Late October and the red deer rut here is now all but finished. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get to my favourite spot, the Royal park in Richmond, during the height of the rut itself. Nevertheless, I took the chance today in somewhat unpromising weather conditions. This time, it worked out well and was something of a treat.
Everything is now quieter. There is a lot less testosterone about and the stags are recovering after their exertions. The deer have dispersed and the stags now tolerating each other.
In one area I found several mature if not quite the biggest and dominant stags. Initially, they were just feeding. However, after a bit, the smallest approached another that was lying down digesting and teased it by nudging antler to antler. After a bit it arose and the pair began a fairly low intensity game of shove. This went on for over an hour. At one stage, the largest joint in with these two and they had a triangular joust for a while until the big guy, having reminded the others who was the boss, got bored and wandered off. The others, intermittently, continued their game. The pushing and shoving was far from the full on crash of the real rut in which engaged fights tend to be fierce and short. It’s quite rare to see those full fights and they only happen between full equals; normally the weaker one quickly works out they are on a looser and turns tail quickly before they suffer any serious damage. Here, there was a fair bit of antler clattering and continual reengagement and tactics tested out with effort exerted by both to hold the other guy. So, jousting rather than fighting.
Best of all, I seemed to be the only person with a camera out to capture the event today.
Gear: Nikon D500 with Nikon 500mm PF at f/5.6 and ISO 800 (quite overcast this morning). Shutter speeds were low with a minimum of 1/200s and I don’t think I managed to get over 1/400s all morning. It was tough to freeze the action in these conditions and you really have to pick your moment as the action peaks; that’s when the stag’s movement effectively freezes for an instant.