Deer Rutting Season

October 2, 2015

Take the kids on a walk this Autumn and go spot some deer rutting…

Frontal view of red deer stag (Cervus elaphus) roaring during the rut, mouth open, in England

Autumn is a great time of year to get your family out hiking. Wrap up warm and enjoy those autumn colours.

But it’s not all about falling leaves and pumpkins; the wildlife haven’t gone into hibernation just yet.

October is deer rutting season for some of the larger British deer, where the stags fight for the does, the female deer.

Dawn and dusk appear to the best time of day to see them, but you may get a glimpse of rutting at other times of the day too.

Finding Deer

Depending on where you live, finding deer in the wild can be difficult.

We live in a more rural part of the country, and have been lucky enough to come across deer a few times. However, one of the best places to see deer rutting is on one of the many organised guided rutting walks at some of the park land found up and down the country.

Our local National Trust Attingham Park for instance has a deer rut walk with the wards that runs between 5pm and 7pm at dusk at the weekend. (Details here).

Tips for Spotting Deer with your kids

  • A good time to watch is early morning and dusk as this is when the deer are most active.
  • Wear appropriate clothing and footwear. Camouflage colours help, as deer are easily disturbed.
  • Watch quietly from a safe distance. Some child-friendly binoculars are useful.
  • Listen out for the bellowing and whistling of dominant stags.
  • Look out for “buck rubs” on trees. Bucks remove bark from trees usually one to two feet off the ground to mark their territory.
  • The fieriest fights tend to happen towards the end of the rut when the Alpha male stag becomes weaker and others may try their luck.
  • It’s not an activity that’s suitable to bring dogs to.

Interesting facts about Deer Ruts

  • Stags crash antlers to claim territory, they don’t usually get hurt during the fights.
  • Stags mark their territory by stomping on the ground.
  • Bucks rub their antlers on a tree to remove the soft velvet that protected them when new, they become ivory-coloured at the tips.
  • A Red stag will go to a peaty bog or muddy pool to wallow covering itself in mud. This helps spread a strong rutting scent.
  • Rivals sometimes walk side by side to asses each others strength and size each other up.
  • The loud whistling sound the Sika deer make can be heard from 1km away.

Types of British Deer in the Country Side

Red Deer

Red Deer

Red Deer are native to the UK and are the largest deer to roam the countryside.

If you live in Scotland, the Lake District, or South West England you may be lucky enough to here the roars of red deer stags and watch them pushing and shoving to gain the upper hand.

Roe Deer

Roe Deer

Roe deer are also native to the UK, and can be found in southern England and Scotland, though not across the central part of the UK (the Midlands and Wales).

Although reddish, they are much smaller than Red Deer, and the males have smaller antlers.

Rutting season is in July and August though for Roe Deer.

Fallow Deer

Fallow Deer

Fallow Deer disappeared from the UK during the last ice age, but were re-introduced by both the Romans and Normans.

These deer have dappled coats and are medium sized. They are quite common in park land across the UK.

Sika Deer

Sika Deer

Sika Deer is not a UK native, but can be seen in woodland throughout the UK.

These are small grey-brown deer. The males have small antlers.

Muntjac Deer

Muntjac Deer

Muntjac Deer is actually a very old species of deer, and again, not a native of the UK, but can be found in southern and central England.

This deer is very small and is about the size of a large dog.

Chinese Water Deer

Chinese Water Deer

As the name suggests, these deer are not native to the UK. You can find these deer in Norfolk.

Their rutting season is a bit later, from November through to January.

They are very good swimmers, hence the ‘water’ in the name.

Sources and More Information

UPDATE: Pictures from our Deer Rutting Trip

So since writing this post we went out with a National Trust ranger at Attingham Park to watch the deer rutting.

It was a really good evening out; not something you would normally do!

We managed to get quite close to the deer. Here are a few pictures we took.

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Shell Grayston
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Shell Grayston

Mum to three kids and loves getting out and about with them. Co-founded Get Out With The Kids to help other parents enjoy getting out and about with their kids. You can often find Shell on Twitter @GetOutKids.

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  1. Some time ago I was talking to a representative from a company looking to redevelop a huge area of previously restored heathland in mid Cornwall.

    I mentioned that there are a large number of roe deer using the site and he replied, “they are vermin – you should see how much damage they do to our trees”.

    • Yes. We live in Shropshire I know plenty of farmers don’t like the deer coming onto their land.
      Mind you, it was really impressive when we were out for a walk once and were in the right place to see a herd of wild deer leaping over the hedges right by us.

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