Lisa G Saw
Deer Rut at Petworth Park, West Sussex
Petworth Park is home to nearly a thousand fallow deer and you don't have to go out of your way to see them. I've always found the best spot is to park in the car park at the furthest end of the grounds, away from Petworth House. From here, as soon as you clear the woods and walk over the lip of the hill into the open expanse, you'll see them! The best time of day, especially for photography, is to go first thing in the morning or close to sunset. The light is fabulous then and you're more likely to see the deer rutting (October). The first time I attempted to photograph the deer rut here was in October last year, 2015, at sunset. I could hear the clanging of antlers echo around the park, but I didn't see any making contact. I did manage to get some great shots of the deer, but none rutting. So, I returned this autumn, but at sunrise, to see if I would have any better luck this time...and I did!
The first set of photos include an array of deer behaviour. Despite being used to humans, the does do tend to be skittish and run off at the sound of someone approaching. You'll often find joggers and dog walkers enjoying the park too! It was fabulous to get some action shots of deer jumping and the 12th photo is of a deer rubbing its antlers against the trunk of a tree.
There was one particular buck who seemed to constantly bellow out, clearly an attempt to stamp his authority and mark out his territory. He stood amidst a ring of trees with is harem of does, keeping a close eye on them. It took some time before another buck decided to challenge this male. The challenger trotted forward and after a brief moment of looking eye to eye, they went head on to each other, with antlers interlocking, as they battled for the does. After sometime, often only a short while, they separate, look up and start to trot alongside each other, checking out the competition, before another bout of fighting. The first fight we saw between two bucks barely lasted 30 seconds, but this pair photographed must have been fighting each other for well over 15 minutes or more. In the end, I think it was a third buck, not even involved in the rut, that came in and diverted the does whilst the other bucks were busy fighting each other.