Photographing fights between red deer, fallow deer, or wild boars

Photographing a particular animal behavior is the most difficult element of wildlife photography. Simply taking a picture of an animal is relatively easy if you know the right techniques and are familiar with the animals and the environment. A behavior, however, is unpredictable and totally uncontrollable. One of the most spectacular scenes for any photographer to capture is a fight between two male animals. The forests and grasslands in France offer great opportunities for this, for photographers who know how to be patient.

The fights between red deers durint the rut season can be very violent.
The fights between red deers durint the rut season can be very violent.

Luck Is Essential

Creating a beautiful wildlife photograph requires luck. The preparation for the photograph is, of course, essential. But without that little boost of what I call luck or good fortune, it is almost impossible to create an interesting photo. However, I always say that luck comes to photographers who seek it. I love the maxim that says, "100% of winners have taken their chance."

A wildlife photographer has to go into the field regularly, whatever the weather, whatever the time, if he wants to photograph a good fight. If he decides that he will only go out on Sunday afternoons when the weather is pleasant, there is very little chance that he will get the shot he wants.

He must be willing to go into the field on any day, at any time, in any season. That is the only way to find luck. A wildlife photographer cannot be a homebody who only dreams of taking extraordinary photos.

Knowledge of the Animals And Their Habitat Is Essential

I never say it enough, but knowing the environment and the animals that you are going to photograph is absolutely necessary. For example, a fight between two bucks in the rutting season is always in an open meadow. There is no way for it to happen in the middle of a thicket. These fights are very violent, and they take a lot of space. The animals need to have room to step back and gain momentum to hit their opponent.

In addition to serious fights in the rutting season, bucks, especially fallow deer, engage in ‘boxing matches’ or mock fights in the spring when they have lost their antlers. These games are a way for them to test themselves and practice for real fights.

Each species has its own unique habits. Reading up on the species you want to photograph and learning from other photographers or hunters is the best way to prepare for going into the field.

However, if a wildlife photographer simply reads magazines and books or watches videos without going into the field, he will have no chance to photograph a fight. Even if he has encyclopedic knowledge of the habits of deer, he must always spend a lot of time in the field, watching the animals and finding the meadows that they frequent, so that he knows where fights will probably take place.

Knowledge of the terrain around these areas is also very important, because the there are three elements of wildlife photography, all of which must work together to produce a good photograph. These are the subject, the background, and the lighting. If the photographer manages to photograph a fight, but there is nothing in the background except fallen trees and broken branches, the picture will lose much of its impact. It is the same with lighting. If it does not highlight the subjects, then the picture will be aesthetically unsatisfying. In wildlife photography, as in any kind of photography, a photograph has to follow certain aesthetic rules.

Patience and Perseverance Are the Keys to Success

To succeed in taking a photograph of two wild animals fighting, a photographer must not be content with theoretical knowledge. He must go into the field regularly, learn about the way the animals behave, and learn about the terrain. He must also show great patience.

I have sometimes spent whole days sitting or lying in a blind, waiting for that extraordinary moment when two bucks start a fight. I have been cold, or gotten cramps or pins and needles from sitting still for too long. I have even fallen asleep without realizing it, but I have always been persistent and patient.

I often have to wait for a long time, but I am never bored. Nature is magical because there is always something to watch. A dragonfly might land on my camera lens, or a robin could alight next to us and start looking for food. Or, if no birds or animals come near us, I listen to the birds singing and try to identify each species. When you know how to look and listen, there is always something interesting going on in nature.

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My waiting has always been rewarded. I have always, in the end, taken the photos that I had dreamed of. However, I never know how long it will take us. The wait can range from two or three hours to several days, but I am always rewarded for my patience.

Proper Equipment Is Necessary

. Taking pictures of fighting animals requires special equipment. An SLR with a fast burst mode is absolutely necessary. Fights often start unexpectedly. They are extremely violent, and they do not last very long. Usually one of the combatants prefers to admit defeat and run away rather than risk being injured or killed. An ordinary compact camera cannot focus fast enough to follow rapidly moving subjects.

I say that good equipment does not make a good photographer, but this rule has exceptions. Photographing fights is one of them.

It is also better to have a lens with a long focal length, because it is difficult to take good photographs is you are too close to your subjects during the fight. In fact, it can even be dangerous. On one occasion, I had to quickly get away from a fight between red deer, because the combatants were moving rapidly towards us. It is always better to be careful.


Fights between European mammals such as red deer, wild boars and fallow deer are fascinating events. Wildlife photographers who have successfully taken photographs of fights are patient and perseverant. They have a good knowledge of the area and they brought the right equipment. But never forget that they also had good luck.

Boxing match between two fallow  deers in spring.
Boxing match between two fallow deers in spring.
Fights between two male boars are very violent. The teeth are formidable weapons.
Fights between two male boars are very violent. The teeth are formidable weapons.


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