Red deer seem calm and peaceful animals. That is, until mating season, or ‘the rut’, starts (mid September/early October). The stags will leave their herd and head off on their own to find hinds (females) to mate with. To impress the hinds, and to ward off any competition, they make a noise: they grunt.
The do this when they see other males. The reason is simple: the bigger the harem of hinds they acquire, the larger the number of offspring.
You can easily hear the stags’ grunting from roads and walking tracks. Another option is to join a guide, who will get your closer to the animals and further away from other people.
You might see the hinds in the background, waiting to see what happens. And sometimes the stags fight and you can hear their antlers crash together.
The animals live in herds of up to twenty deer. Hinds live in herds of hinds, and stags live in herds of stags. During the rut, the stags go in search of hinds, and frequently fight with each other. The strongest stag claim the biggest herd of hinds, and mates with them.
The best place to witness the rut is the Wildebaanweg wild observation site in national park De Hoge Veluwe. The animals get fed apples here, so they are often spotted in this area. In national park Veluwezoom the best place to experience the rut is the famous Elsberg, especially if you want to take photos of the deer and their habitat. Another good (and less busy) place where you could see them is the lookout at Heerikshuizen.
It’s harder to get to the Oostvaardersplassen. But the Praamweg near Lelystad (at the bird observation areas Grote Praambult and Kleine Praambult) are known to be good places to see red deer. You can take a walk to De Driehoek, an open willow forest that you can reach easily from the car park at De Oostvaarder information centre, at Kitsweg 1 in Lelystad.
More and more people are interesting in witnessing this interesting natural spectacle. This means it can be busy at the roads and paths where the deer are spotted. And the so-called ‘Burltochten’ (Grunt Tours) are very popular. If you’d like to join one, it’s best to book in advance.
The best time to catch the mating behaviour of the red deer is early in the morning or late in the afternoon. It’s usually a quieter in the mornings, and you can see the stags’ hot breath in the cold morning air when they grunt.