Deer Rut 2015 – Having just returned from spending a few days photographing the red deer at RSPB Minsmere and the surrounding countryside I thought I’d post a few tips and comments about how I got on. The first thing I noticed was a there seemed to be a lot less deer about compared to previous years.
I understand that the numbers have been significantly culled in line with the general consensus throughout conservation bodies that the numbers are just no longer sustainable. The overgrazing of the vegetation was of major concern along with the general health and condition of the deer themselves. Numbers-wise I was told that 200 had been culled two years ago and a further 250 last year out of a herd of 1000 individuals. Apparently a healthy herd should be able to maintain a stable population, even at these levels.
I am far from being a professional photographer but I thought I’d like to offer my tips to hopefully give beginners a better chance of photographing these magnificent beasts.
Deer Photography Tips
Go at Dawn
I found dawn to be the most productive time for photography. The deer seem to be the most active and it gives you the chance to get into position under the cover of darkness. I also found it meant I could be a bit more patient with the knowledge that the light was improving rather than fading. Dusk however is also a period of high activity.
Locate a likely spot
Audible clues are simple – the characteristic roar of the stags lets the world know where they are! The best visual clues I found were the tracks. Deer seem to move about quite a bit from one zone to another escaping disturbance and following the most attractive females. They tend to use quite clear paths especially when crossing over natural barriers such as streams and ditches. Also the rutting areas are quite traditional and very well known by the locals.
Stay in one place
Even if you are wearing full camouflage clothing you will still stick out like a sore thumb to everyone else let alone the deer. So my advice would be to find a comfy bush somewhere and stay there. Camouflage or dark clothing in this situation is essential and don’t forget to hide hands and face. Obviously keep low and remain comfortable as a long wait may be necessary.
Keep Down Wind
Deer’s sense of smell, like so many mammals, is infinitely better than ours and is one of their main defence mechanisms. Beware of the winds strength and direction at all times and do not wear any artificial chemicals. American hunters recommend a dab of female deer urine but this delight has so far escaped my ‘must have’ list.
If you have any tips of your own, that you’d like to share, I’d be delighted to hear from you.