12 May 2016

Deer on the hill

The deer had returned to the face of the hill and as the sun crept up behind the southern Ruahine I watched them from my back door. The stag was nowhere to be seen, even though I’d seen him just yesterday with the five now feeding there. Had he become bored with these few, or become exhausted and fed up with trying to keep them under control? Maybe he recognised that if the hinds weren’t now carrying his genes into the future they never would; maybe he understood in some subliminal, animal way that if he wanted the best chance to perpetuate his genes, he’d do better looking for other hinds.

Another possibility, but one I hoped hadn’t happened, was that he’d been shot. But that seemed unlikely, because even if the landowner had given permission for someone to hunt the area where I assumed the stag and hinds were living, who would shoot a rank, rutting stag with skinny little antlers when a yearling or one of the hinds would provide much better meat?

I watched the five deer grazing in the dawn light. The face of the hill was still in shadow, but sunlight had already arrowed through a saddle on the hills to light up the silver birch and bead tree by the little woolshed. The gold and brown and dull green birch leaves trembled in a cold, gusting breeze and the bronze bead tree leaves shimmered in the wind and sun. I stepped back slightly into the shade of the doorway and put the binoculars back to my eyes. The deer had come further down the hill, closer, almost to the fence at the foot of the slope. I could have watched them all day, but I had tea to drink, breakfast to eat, and work to do.

I wished them luck and turned back to the day’s tasks.

Since writing this, I've seen the stag back with the others on the hill on many occasions.

At one stage a month or two ago, the mob had increased to eight. This was one of the few times I've seen them in the sun; usually they wait until the face is in shadow.

Photos and original text © 2015 Pete McGregor


Ruahines said...

Kia ora Pete,
A nice moment. I agree in hoping the stag lives on. I recall once seeing numerous heads lined up at Maropea Forks hut in a rather gruesome fly ridden display. None of the meat taken except a few back steaks. Even though I understand the need to control them it seemed such a waste. Hope all is well e hoa. Be good to catch up soon.

pohanginapete said...

Kia ora Robb. I remember your telling me about those heads, and my reaction's the same. On a happier note, the stag's still alive and well: I photographed him yesterday.

Roderick Robinson said...

Can't get worked up about deer. Before moving to Hereford we lived on the fringe of Richmond Park (12 miles SW of London) where deer abounded. It was possible to use the park as a short-cut but you had to be deer-conscious; they used to stand at the side of the road, their faces blank, their intentions unknowable, then they would amble. I always remember travelling along the Interstate through the northern more remote part of Pennsylvania and coming upon a deer/car accident, two hundred yards separating the participants. The deer was dead and that word also described the newer status of the Chevy. I managed to avoid any such conjunction but soon after arriving in Hereford I came upon an equally unknowable creature - a pheasant. That encounter cost me £160 for a new headlamp. There is a happy ending to this minor anecdote; when in my car I am loved by the local fauna. A veritable St Francis.

pohanginapete said...

Roderick, apologies for the delay in replying. I can certainly accept that anyone who's had run-ins with deer in a car, or even potential run-ins, wouldn't share my enthusiasm. And, as much as I'm fascinated by moose (or elk if you're in Europe), I certainly wouldn't want to meet one on the road in a car. I remember seeing the warning signs in New Hampshire. Here in New Zealand, though, it's usually just possums, which, solid as they are, aren't big enough to damage a car (same can't be said for the effect of the car on the possum, though), and they're considered pests here. Still, I hate hitting anything in a car, regardless of pest status. As a young friend said recently, it's not their fault they're pests.