Best Places for Seeing the Autumn Deer Rut

The deer rut is one of the most exciting wildlife events of the year, occurring from late September to November. Several woodlands, parklands and country estates are great places to witness the rut, where stags compete for the female does in the herd, bellowing calls and locking antlers with competitors.

Deer rut in parkland in the UK

The best time of day to watch the rut is dawn or dusk, as that is when the deer are most active. Be sure to stay quiet, and wear camouflage coloured men’s country clothing and women’s country clothing as the animals can be easily disturbed. Though deer ruts can begin early in October, there is still a chance to see the ruts as late as November.

New Forest, Hampshire

All six of the UK’s deer (red, roe, fallow, sika, muntjac and Chinese water deer) are found in the wild throughout the New Forest, so you can be sure to catch some fearsome action. Watching these magnificent creatures lock antlers at the various rutting hotspots in the forest date back around one hundred years.

Exmoor National Park, Devon

The wild moors of Exmoor are home to herds of red, fallow and roe deer, and misty dawn mornings are great for spotting rutting stags. Don’t hesitate to bring along a camera and snap some breath-taking shots of the stags battling it out as the sun rises. Remember to wrap up warm in the cold mornings too.

Galloway Forest Park, Dumfries and Galloway

Galloway is home to hundreds of red deer, the largest land mammal found in the UK. You can catch sight of the roaring stags at the Red Deer Range, and stop at visitor centres at Glentrool, Clatteringshaws and Kirroughtree to find the best and safest route to take through the park to find the perfect spot to watch the red deer.

Margam Park, Glamorgan

Red, fallow deer and Pere David deer are residents of Margam Park, a country estate and parkland of around 850 acres near Port Talbot in Wales. Deer herd tours can be taken across the grounds, with local experts giving visitors information about the animals, and giving you a first-hand, up-close encounter of the spectacle.

Eastern Moors, Peak District

Though the rust-coloured moors of the Peak District camouflage the red deer well in autumn, their rutting is not hard to miss. The Peak District National Park is home to around 130 red deer, and the exposed park is ideal for sighting stags in battle. There are dedicated walks you can take through the park, bringing you plenty of wildlife sightings, in addition to the deer. Remember your binoculars!

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, North Yorkshire

500 deer of three different species roam wild in the deer park surrounding Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, so you are sure to see some elaborate rutting displays. You can also take the route picked out by deer ranger Paul, a circular walk, which brings you to several great spots to see the rutting around dusk. If you bring your dog, be sure to keep it on a lead, and keep your distance from the deer.

Minsmere, Suffolk

The RSPB reserve at Minsmere is well-known throughout the UK as offering a fantastic up-close view of the autumn deer rut. The reserve is home to one of the largest wild herds of red deer outside of Scotland, and the warmer climate and optimum habitat mean the deer are even bigger than their Scottish relatives. Safaris and guided tours can be taken to the northern edge of the reserve, where the testosterone-fuelled beasts battle it out to win the females.

Did You Know?

The rut is all about a show of strength and starts out with sound. The stag with the loudest bellow is the strongest and rivals need to be wary. As the rutting begins, the roars of stags can be heard throughout moorland and woods.

Stags antlers are fearsome weapons, able to inflict serious damage to other stags, sometimes fatal wounds. Remember to keep your distance when watching, as the fired-up deer can startle easily.


Image credit: Andy Morffew

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