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Rutting good fun in the Forest

By Rob Ward
Website contributor


Rob Ward captured this film of a large stag in the Forest of Dean

Hi, my name is Rob Ward and I'm going to take you on a journey deep into the Forest of Dean to witness one of the most awe inspiring and thought provoking wildlife spectacles our magnificent forest has to offer.

For as long as I can remember, I have spent every spare moment in the forest and this is one time of the year I dearly look forward to. The fallow deer rut.

The rut begins in October and ends in November, climaxing towards the end of October.

As long as you always have a healthy respect for the deer, you can have some exhilarating, heart pounding moments.

A large stag in the Forest of Dean
The annual stag rut takes place in October and November

Although you should never put yourself at risk and you must ALWAYS put the deer first, this goes for ALL wildlife. I know this is a corny saying, but please do not try this yourself.

Click, I close the car door, it's 06.00am and pitch black. Not a sound, even the birds are quiet as I walk towards the entrance to the forest.

I stop at a local lake for a few moments, listening, tuning into nature. Then I hear it!

It sounds like a lion roaring in the distance and I know exactly who the culprit is, as I have seen him many times before.

He is a large fallow buck with antlers standing a metre from the top of his head. I've got the bug now; I have to find him and so off I walk into the forest.

I am deep in the forest now, but there is enough light to see clearly, so I forge on, up to my ankles in mud and water with branches in my face, but I can hear him, he is close.

Fallow Deer
Scientific name: Dama dama
Introduced to Britain in the 11th century by the Normans
Life span: Up to 16 years
Diet: Grasses, woodland berries and bark
Gestation Period: 32 weeks (single fawn)
They gather in herds of up to 100 or more

Every five metres or so I stop and crouch, waiting for him to give his location away, he does not know I am there.

I hear him, no more than 20 metres away, so I now have a decision to make. Stay where I am and wait, or try and get closer?

From my experiences with every single creature in the forest, over many years I have learned that you must be patient; you must be prepared to wait for hours to just catch a glimpse, if you see them at all!

I find myself a location where I can blend in, but more importantly, where I have a good field of view. I then crouch or sit and wait and wait and wait.

Finally I hear him; he is directly in front of me and walking my way. I sit there, in between a group of tightly nit trees with my camera pressed against my eye.

A large stag in the Forest of Dean
Rob was raised in the Forest and has a huge passion for wildlife

He walks out and looks directly at me, it makes me feel slightly nervous as he is very close, but he cannot see me as I am completely camouflaged.

He sniffs the air and can probably hear my heart trying to burst out of my chest, but he then turns and sniffs the grass before moving on.

The feelings I get after an encounter like this are a mixture of pleasure, accomplishment, happiness and admiration, all mixed up in a massive adrenaline rush.

Away from my family, there is nothing else on this planet which even comes close.

I am a passionate guy, with a massive passion for our wildlife. This will stay with me forever.

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