One of Europe's most spectacular wildlife phenomena, the annual red deer 'rut' takes place each autumn as stags battle for dominance and the chance to mate.The red deer is the UK's largest deer species and adult males - the stags - are easily recognisable by their impressively large antlers. The largest herds are found in the Highlands and islands, although large numbers can be also found in the Galloway hills, the Outer Hebrides and in Highland Perthshire.Stags and hinds live in separate herds for much of the year but come together rather vocally in late September or early October at the start of the breeding season, or rut. Hinds (females) are only fertile for a day or less each year so the competition to mate is incredibly high.During the rut, younger newcomers will challenge the current dominant stag for the attention of the herd hinds (females) with elaborate and noisy clashes of antlers and 'roaring' which can be heard quite from some distance. The effort involved in the head-to-head battles means that over the course of the rut, stags may lose as much as 20% of their body weight as they wrestle for control of their harem. The ultimate victor will mate with as many females as possible, usually up to 20, with calves being born the following June.
Tips for Deer watching
Watch out for tell-tale signs of the animals including tracks, damage to trees, eaten autumn fruits, and deer poo.
Use your nose to detect the scent of deer and their droppings.
* Once you've located the deer's favourite habitats, be patient and watch quietly for the action to unfold.
* The best time to watch the deer is just after dawn and at dusk when they are most active.
* Listen for the bellow of this herd's dominant stag during the rut. Whistling is also common.
* The Forestry Commission runs rutting events in some areas where you're guaranteed to see the deer locking antlers.
* Keep quiet and wear camouflage colours when watching the deer because they are easily disturbed.
* The fiercest fights can happen towards the end of the rut when the Alpha male stag becomes weaker and others may try their luck.
*Remember to keep a safe distance from the stag and his females!There are many wild red deer here in our part of central Scotland and during the rut you are very likely to hear the stags as they roar, creating some eery echoes around the glens.
If you are planning to stay in one of our self-catering holiday cottages over the coming weeks then take particular notice of sounds and sightings of the red deer as they make their way lower down the hills and sometimes into the villages during the rutting season.