The Peak District Red Deer Rut

Published: 12th November 2014 at 5:24 pm. Posted in Blog.

The annual deer rut is a massive event in any wildlife photographer’s calendar. October ’til early November is the best time of year to watch our British deer as they participate in the rut, with the stags engaging in fierce and often fatal battles to exert their right to mate with the hinds. The three largest species of deer present in Britain; Red, Fallow, and Sika Deer all rut in the autumn. However of these, only the Reds are actually native to our country.

The conditions for this year’s rut were certainly less than ideal, and because of this I only managed to get out a handful of times, occasionally not managing to get a single usable photograph! Sometimes when you have these days it can be extremely disheartening, but as other wildlife photographers will know, it comes with the territory. You just have to pick yourself up and try and try again until you get the images you want.

On my first trip out the weather was horrible, with on and off rain and gloomy textureless skies. I did manage to get some images of the deer bellowing, but the dull conditions meant I had to really boost my ISO, which resulted in some very grainy images with unpleasant muted colours. This was a shame as I managed to get really close to a harem, to get some intimate portraits.

Red Deer Stag Portrait

A magnificent Red deer stag, Cervus elaphus, standing amongst the heather.

Red Deer Stag Bellowing

A Red deer stag, bellowing out his challenge.

Bellowing Stag with Doe

A huge Red deer stag, bellowing next to one of his hinds on Big Moor.

By my next trip conditions had improved somewhat, and whilst there was still no sign of the sun, it was at least bright enough to get a couple of better quality images with much warmer autumn colours.


A young buck who was standing on the edge of one of the harems, waiting for his chance to mate with the hinds while the dominant stag wasn’t paying attention, or was too exhausted to resist.

Bellowing Stag Mist

A roaring stag with condensing breath coming from his mouth into the cold October air.

By my final trip the weather had improved significantly and after an early start with lots of stumbling (and falling) around the moorland in the dark, I was rewarded with a stunning sunrise.


The amazing orange glow caused by the combination of the bright sun and misty conditions.

Sign post sunrise

A signpost on White Edge photographed just as the sun was ascending behind a thick blanket of cloud.

Misty Sunrise

After the sun had disappeared behind the clouds, it created a fantastic glow around the whole valley. I decided to make the most of this opportunity to capture some silhouettes using the great colour.

Stag Silhouette

A silhouetted stag.


The stag roaring into the misty morning air.




As the strong colour of the sky began to fade, I captured this silhouette of a stag and hind by one of the many wizened old trees on the moorland. I especially like this picture because of the crow sitting in the branches of the tree.


A stag bellowing to the misty moorland.


A doe and fawn on the moorland.

Silhouetted Does

As the orange faded I was greeted by cloudy blue skies.

Deer Tasting Air

On my way back to the car I captured this moment, and whilst it looks like he’s blowing a raspberry, he is actually tasting the air around the hinds in his harem to check if they are receptive to his advances.

Although I didn’t capture anything usable of the actual rutting action (most of the time the challengers would simply run away rather than risk locking antlers with the dominant stag), I thoroughly enjoyed all the time I spent photographing these beautiful animals, and it means I can look forward to trying again next year!

Thanks for looking!