The fallow deer rut begins in September and continues into early November, peaking around the middle of October. Typically a stag will gather a harem of does around a rutting stand where he freely mates with them. He does this by utter a deep guttural belching sound which carries several hundreds of metres.
Rutting stands are distinguishable by the abundance of scrapes and pits which can reach a considerable size. Pits are large areas of bare earth located around the stand and is the place most of the rutting activity takes place. Scrapes on the other hand are located throughout the bucks territory. You should also look out for bark scraping and destroyed vegetation as the males shed their velvet in late autumn and to intimidate rivals and spread scent during the rut. All these signs are often located near established deer paths within the forest to ensure the buck meets as many hind's as possible.
I took a couple of people out with me on the weekend of 20/21 of October 2012 to a location I have been to several times over the last few years and knew it as a guaranteed location for an abundance of rutting activity. The area is heavily wooded with open spaces between lines of conifers, surrounded by deciduous woodland, perfect deer habitat. However, despite searching for 3 hours we heard not one single buck groaning. We went deep into the forest and all we saw were 5 does, no stags at all. As already mentioned this is a location I know well and know where the rutting grounds are but this time they were empty, in what should have been prime rutting time. Several times I have been to this area and seen up to 10 stags groaning each with between 5-15 females in their harem.
I was a little worried by this so when I got back I asked a few photographer friends their experiences of the rut this year. All reported the same. Little to no activity of rutting stags, but with sightings of females. This seems to be happening across the Forest and we seem to think that its due to the Forestry Commission over culling the herds. No of course we cannot be sure but it does have us worried. I will continue to monitor the situation and keep you updated.
Here's a very poor picture of a stag in the location described above, it shows the type of area I have tried to describe.
On a slightly better note the government have decided to postpone the badger cull until next year due to the optimum time for this year having passed. Whilst this is great news the war IS NOT over, we still need to do everything we can to stop this stupid policy.
If you haven't done so yet please sign the petition, every signature really does help.
Finally, the wild boar have been making their presence known closer and closer to Coleford town centre. A few months ago they had gotten as close as the Forest Hills gold club, about a mile out of town. But recently they have actually come within a few hundred metres of the town centre. Having dug up a pensioners grass verge outside his house it made headlines in all the local press.However, despite the moaning of local residents and how hard done by this pensioner was the grass verge has been repaired and barely looks as though any damage was ever done. This unsurprisingly didn't make the local papers. Friends of the Boar argue why the FC will shoot boar in the forests whilst ignoring so called nuisance boar who encroach too far into towns. The FC say that they must put public safety first, despite having dealt with boar close to populated areas before.
Below is a photo of the damage and a photo after to show how it looks.
Friends of the Boar took to Coleford town centre this past Tuesday to protest against the boar cull. Story here
This is a very worthy cause and again we really need your help and whilst we don't expect the petition to reach the heights of the badger cull every signature will show the FC how many people oppose the cull.