Roe deer domain

It’s late in the evening and on the way to the woods I pass a pair of reddish ears pricked and alert in the long grasses among the sorrel and milkmaid flowers. Because the ears are facing away from me I am not heard and I get past, without disturbing the evening cud-chewing.

I finally settle myself on a broken wall on the edge of the woods. I’ve had to creep over beech mast and fallen twigs to get here and I’ve tried not to tread on them so they crack and make my presence known. It’s hard work and makes me nervous. Some blackbirds are clucking in alarm and a wood pigeon clatters out of the tree above me advertising widely my alien presence. There’s a strong smell of animal.

An owl shrieks somewhere not far off. It’s not very dark but the woods are in fact quite crepuscular. After only  a couple of minutes a roe hind walks past about 10 metres away. She doesn’t notice me sitting on the wall: she is intent on nibbling fresh shoots along the path. The owl carries on shrieking. The blackbirds carry on clucking.

A breeze makes the leaves dance and I can’t help thinking there’s an animal about but it might just be the burr of the leaves, their fluttering as the daylight fades. After a few more minutes, I see the roe hind has drawn closer and is eating leaves from a tree only a few metres away. I get my binoculars out to see her more clearly, to check on the summeriness of her coat and see if there are any kids in tow yet. It is then I realise that it is me who is watched. My movement disturbs her slightly and she jumps away but stops by another tree and looks back. As I do nothing, she returns to her nonchalant nibbling and only step by step makes a dignified exit.

On the other side of the wall, I catch sight of another hind among the bluebells. She has noticed me too but as I keep absolutely still she doesn’t show fright. A stag with several tines to his antlers denoting some age, although being a roe he still looks Bambi-ishly young.  He is walking near her through the trees. So much for his being a lonesome singleton.

Difficult to tell a deer with stick thin legs from the young trees or the old stalks of bracken. He gazes at me intently for a while but goes back to his grazing among the bluebells.  It is then that an unearthly bark chases me out of the woods. As I hurry away the barking continues even when I have reached several hundred metres away. Is the stag barking at me intruding on his territory or at other males? The barking continues till I reach the gate on to the road. I want to know if its me they are barking at or if the evening barking is a daily ritual. It’s another world down there in the woods and I leave it, to return to my house, the electric lights and my book.

About Rebecca Gethin

Rebecca Gethin is a poet and a novelist. Cinnamon Press published her third collection, All the Time in the World in 2017. Another pamphlet is forthcoming with Three Drops Press. Her second novel, What the horses heard, was published by Cinnamon Press in May 2014. Her second poetry collection - A Handful of Water - was published by Cinnamon in 2013. Her first - River is the Plural of Rain - was published by Oversteps Books in 2009. Her novel Liar Dice won the Cinnamon Press Novel Writing Award in 2010 and was published in 2011. She lives on Dartmoor and writes occasional pieces about wildlife and nature. Her poems appear in a variety of poetry magazines and in several anthologies.
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10 Responses to Roe deer domain

  1. annab says:

    Becky i enjoyed the tension in your piece, hardly ever see deer in my neck of the woods. amazingly last weekend saw an owl swooping low over the garden chased by all the garden birds, at breakfast time – xx

  2. elly says:

    Yes, lots of suspense!! How loud were the barks? And how rapid-fire? Have you heard the barking since? You have a question still to research… 🙂 I enjoyed your post. And look forward to our next walk together. xx

    • The barks are short, sharp like a terrier or a fox, but not so high. They can go on though for a quite a long time. I think they must do this at this time of the year while the fawns/kids are still young. There is an unearthly feel to it. I’ve heard it in Italy too but didnt this time though I saw a roe stag (but no hind)
      Love Becky

  3. I love this piece, Becky! The descriptions are beautiful and I was there in that wood with you. Really great!

  4. Miriam Darlington says:

    ‘it might just be the burr of the leaves, their fluttering as it fades…’ ‘Difficult to tell a young deer with stick-thin legs from the trees or stalks of bracken’ Some really enchanting writing Becky! And acutely observed. Much appreciated. It would be lovely also to have the odd photo of these ghostly woods, if you ever have a camera… ie see my otter country pics on my ‘Wild-watching’ blogspot
    Miriam x

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