However, with the end of the rut coming ever closer I got a tip off about some deer in Kent. Straight away I was researching the site, how to get there and the weather that weekend.
I woke up at 5am in Canterbury to freezing cold driving rain in the dark, got dressed, grabbed my rucksack and proceeded to cycle to the station.
The rain was not relenting and I was beginning to wonder if it was a good idea, sitting on the train with the rain still streaming down the windows, I had lost pretty much all hope.
I disembarked at Sevenoaks and began to trudge up the hill towards where I thought Knole Park was. Luckily the rain had stopped but it was pretty cloudy from what I could see in the half-light.
After using my trusty iPhone maps I finally located the park. It was pretty surreal walking of a main road to see a open moor which wouldn’t be out of place in Scotland being grazed by deer.
I kept walking following the sound of belching stags and eventually came across the main herd. Just after setting up I was checking out the area when a noisy stag came charging right past me out of the bracken to begin strutting his stuff! Closer than I’d ever got at Ashridge!
After settling down in a position behind some tussocks of grass (note to self: in future take some form of matting to reduce getting a soaked bum!) I had my breakfast watching the deer interact and the stags strut their stuff.
After stalking the Ashridge herd all over the place I was surprised with the Knole Park deer’s acceptance of me, sometimes passing within feet of me on route to drink and feed elsewhere.
A lot of parallel walking was taking place between the stags sizing each other up constantly.
Soon enough the action began to take place with the future big boys taking ringside seats…
Until you see the rut first hand I don’t think it’s possible to understand how strong these stags are. Taking points to the throat and still battling on.
The rain did make a brief reappearance but it didn’t put the stags out of the mood for fighting at all
Around the copse the deer seemed to favour there were loads of mysterious craters. I was trying to work out if Knole Park had some kind of giant rabbit I had been missing but I soon saw first hand evidence of the excavators…
And then they had a comfy little hole to survey their kingdom from…or just sleep in
The stags continued to belch away to their hearts content but the hinds didn’t seem to care for them much
Even the little fellas tried to get involved
Throughout the day the park got busier meaning I lost my private show and had to take the role of free tour guide as more and more people asked what they were doing.
Quote of the day from a woman ‘Typical it’s only the men making all the noise’.
As the parks visitors trickled away I was left with brilliant autumnal light and any fears of the rain from the morning seemed a distant memory.
The action calmed down a bit and the stags went about scent marking the various trees laying claim to their hard fought territory
Camera or no camera I could happily spend day after day with these intelligent mammals. Their pure strength and respect towards each other is amazing.
This year I’ve seen bears fishing feet away from me, hundreds of seabirds colonising islands, humpback whales and orcas hunting, racoons have been at my feet taste testing my camera. All amazing experiences but watching deer rut has got to be up there with those. All for £10 and an hour from home.