Bangs for the bucks
Sporting Gun|October 2021
Jon Snowdon and companions keep cool heads but can’t help but be exhilarated by the roe rut
Jon Snowdon

The rut is probably the best part of the roe deer year, and ours started to smolder around 12 July. It rapidly gained in intensity until it was all but out of control by the first and second week of August. It then usually fizzles out, though I have known it to stop suddenly, due to who knows what. We do know that the weather has an effect but, in reality, the action is most likely still taking place, it is just going on in cover and unseen.

Once it has settled down the bucks will not be around as much. They would have gone through a number of highly active periods, which, broadly, is what keeps them busy:

February to April is cleaning off velvet, patrolling their territory, leaving scent with the odd skirmish, and chasing off youngsters

May to early June is the really active territorial month. They are battling to hold or attempt to oust other bucks and take over better territory.

July and August is the rut. This is a hugely active and energy-sapping period. It involves being tempted by various does to mate, often covering large distances and invariably challenges by other bucks for her attention.

The bucks do need time to recover from these prolonged periods of effort. This expenditure of energy will in many cases have reduced the fat level reserves and they need to be replenished before winter. Any wounds they may have incurred in the fray must heal and they need to recover. Deaths from such injuries are not uncommon.

Spread

The ground I control hosted a classic rut this season and, unusually, it all started around the same time, even though the estates are geographically spread out in Northumberland from the far north-east down to the south-west borders. It was a pleasure to be part of it all as an observer.

The first outing was with a Deerstalking Certificate (DSC) 2 candidate. We planned to make our way down the field edges using hedgerows as cover to help us approach a known hotspot for roe deer. The field boundaries also had good sightlines. The area had fields of crops of wheat, rape, and potatoes. There were also small plantations dotted around, which were also known havens for roe — where any deer would come out of cover to browse the woodland edge or graze on the vegetation on the unplanted field boundaries.

On the morning of our first outing, as we were stalking down a field boundary, Lotte raised her nose and scented into the hedgerow, pulling on her lead further into it. A roe doe exploded out of the cover, followed closely by a buck. They both stampeded past us on the opposite side of the hedge 5m away.

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