The 26th of September is traditionally known as the day of the roaring, the day the red deer rut begins , though the rut seldom really gets going before the first week in October.
Stags and hinds spend most of the time in separate herds , often many miles apart, few forests are large enough nor fortunate enough to have both most are either stag forests or hind forests.
Maybe this is where I should say for those that know nothing of the Highlands, that the term forest is a misnomer as there are few if any trees on a Highland deer forest.
For those who have access to a stag forest the build up to the rut can be seen and heard prior to its start,the bachelor companionship of high summer has gone and tempers are now becoming frayed, and the stags can now be heard trying out their voices.
Those who are on a hind forest will listen in frustration, to the distant roars of stags, while none are to be seen on the ground,until one day the first stag is seen from then on more and more will appear each day
Stags tend to rut in the same spots year after year, and individuals become known to the stalker,
but every so often a big mature stranger will appear , why has he moved from his traditional rutting spot,has he been driven from his usual place by an even bigger stag? or did he perhaps just fancy a change of scene.
Early in the rut stags can be seen with huge herds of hinds, but as competition for hinds is fierce he will be unlikely to hold these.numbers for long.
A rutting stag will not suffer any other males in the herd , other than that years calves,males of the previous year are evicted from the herd, where they will hang about on the fringes of the group, sometimes tempted to sneak back in, only to be driven back out again by the stag , one can't help but feel for these sorry looking individuals, as it is more than likely the first time they have been away from their mothers and the rest of the herd, however that will be their lot for the extent of the rut.
Young stags may also hang about the vicinity of the group, feeling the awakening of desire,but unable to do anything but look on longingly , again to be driven roughly off by the stag should they have the audacity to get to close.
This constant chasing of youngsters , and that of more serious mature rivals, this expending of energy constantly chasing off rivals real or imagined plus the fact that he will virtually stop eating
during the rut resulting in up to a 20% loss in body weight, means that few stags can hold their position for the duration of the rut, and sometimes a group of hinds will have several masters during the rutting period.
If he has not been ousted by a stronger stag,after around three weeks of rutting activity he will usually have had enough and can be found heading of to the wintering ground.
By the end of October most of the mature stags that have been holding hinds will have gone.
Some rutting will still take place between those eager young onlookers who have spent the last weeks on the fringes of the herd and any hinds that have been late in coming into season.
The odd roar from a youngster can be heard throughout November and even into December but on the whole peace has returned to the glen.