Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Rutting Roe Deer - August 2015

At the start of the July I took the plunge and decided to move in with my girlfriend Donna, we found a nice little cottage just a mile away from where I lived previously with rolling fields at the bottom of the garden and a wide open expanse filled with wildlife just waiting to be photographed. Getting time to explore those fields however proved impossible. If I wasn’t spending all my free time sorting out the garden, moving and erecting furniture I was down at the cricket club keeping the wicket in shape for its each weekly fixture.

By late August I had nearly gone two months without taking a single picture, catastrophe I hear you cry, and I couldn’t have agreed more. Luckily one weekend we had guests, some of Donna’s friends had come down from Cheltenham for the weekend. And having spent the night asleep on the sofa I awoke to a bright warm summer morning. The back fields had been harvested in the week so acres of freshly chopped stubble beckoned. I made my excuses to Donna as everyone else was still asleep and headed off out with the camera. Having photographed Roe Deer near these hedgerows before I hoped I might get lucky again, especially as it was still early just after 7am.

It didn’t take long for my first sighting, I headed up along the footpath and spotted a couple of Roe sat underneath the hedgerow, already sheltering themselves from the warm morning sun. Hoping they might emerge out on to the stubble I positioned myself at the intersection of the hedgerow, where four other hedges met. It proved to be a good vantage point as it was the corner joining point for four different fields. Two still had standing crops so it offered plenty of habitat for cover and for feeding.

A quick scan with the binoculars found Deer everywhere, I couldn’t believe my luck. All were a few hundred meters away but each field had visible targets. I setup my camera ready for the nearest one. The gap in the crossed hedges seemed like a logical place for any of them to walk through so I waited patiently and within minutes I spotted a young Doe peering out at me through the dense wheat crop. She would stand motionless for minutes on end before slowly inching her way out into the open. Where she then really surprised me as she bounded on down towards the gap in the hedge at quite a speed. Pausing just feet away as she caught my scent. Before bolting off through the gap and back out into the Wheat crop the other side.

Several pictures in the bag I was pretty happy, and was soon joined by a chap walking his dog along the footpath. I had spoken to this guy before on several occasions and he gave me an update of what bird species he had seen over the spring in this area. As we stood there talking normally, at times even quite loudly I caught some movement out the corner of my eye, a couple of Roe Deer charging along the track towards us. As they got closer we could see a nice sized Buck chasing a Doe, probably the same one I had just photographed. He was close on her tail and moving at some speed, seemingly oblivious as they both came charging towards us. The Doe eventually dove through a hole in the hedgerow. The Buck was still pretty close behind her, catching sight of us just meters away as he followed her through the hedge.

We were both in a little shock, stood out in the open these deer were not at all that bothered by us, the lengths they’d go to when the bloods up I suppose, like any man! The dog walker chap left me wishing me well for some more shots. Alone again I popped my head around the hedge to see the Doe spring off through the standing wheat the other side. No Buck though, he had doubled back and was well camouflaged among the standing grass verge on the edge of the stubble fields stood alertly among the grass and wildflowers.

I’ve never encountered Roe Deer during the rut before but was pretty sure he had seen me as a potential challenger, no more than twenty feet away from me over the course of the next ten minutes or so he slowly circled me, pausing to sniff the air every now and then and take in the scent along the ground. I happily snapped away trying my best not to make any sudden movements, still shocked this wild beast was just feet away and not spooked by the noise of the camera or my smell. He even licked his lips a couple of times, perhaps I smelt like a female, not something I’ve ever been accused of before.

My wild moment was shattered a couple of seconds later when a loose dog came barreling towards us both, its jogger owner close behind. The Buck sped off across the field to the safety of a nearby plantation.  And the jogger passed by without a care in the world as I gave her a very dirty look! Memory card red hot with shots, and a little more than an hour out of the door I headed home for breakfast with a massive smile on my face. I am still a little shocked by just how close the encounter was and can’t wait to till the annual Roe rut comes again next summer. Hopefully this time I will have far more time to spend with the Deer and maybe get a glimpse at the Bucks going at it. Fighting I mean, going at it in the other sense might have happened to me if the jogger hadn’t of interrupted!

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