Monarch of the moor: Of all the creatures that roam the wild woods and uplands of Devon, only one can truly claim to be king.

By far the biggest and most impressive beast living in Britain today is the Red deer.

And October is when the stags stand proud.

As summer wanes, days grow shorter and leaves begin to fall.

Autumn is when the biggest and strongest stags can be found guarding herds of hinds.

The deer rut or breeding season is thought to really get into top gear when the first frosts of autumn reveal a glittering dawn. But his is nothing new.

In mid and north Devon the hills and valleys have long echoed to the bellowing of stags and clash of antlers for thousands of years.

Throughout history it was no coincidence that these uplands and open woods were reserved as royal forests by successive Kings.

The Red and the much smaller Roe deer are the only native species of their kind in this country.

All others were introduced and now live wild.

Autumn heralds the battle for Red deer dominance as the strongest stags see off countless lesser rivals.

Mature stags carry the biggest antlers and it is not only their size that is impressive.

Every year they shed them and grow a new and larger set over the summer months.

Nothing in nature goes to waste and discarded antlers are an important source of nutrients for many animals, including deer.

Basically antlers consist of bone covered by a sheath of keratin, the same material as our finger and toe nails.

This contains a variety of essential elements, the richest of which is calcium.

So the real reason why finding a shed antler is uncommon, is that other creatures have eaten them, even mice.

As Red deer stags mature their antlers grow more tines.

Indeed the number of points carried by a stag is even given a name.

A Red deer with 12 points, evenly six on each antler, is called a Royal, while 14 points make an Imperial stag.

But only an animal with 16 points can be referred to as a Monarch.

While the sight of such a magnificent animal is rare outside of a royal park the sounds of battle and bellowing can carry for miles.

So do not be tempted to get too close, stags are notoriously aggressive at this time of the year.

Something I well remember from personal experience. But then that is another story.