Books about hunting – especially the anecdotal kind – frequently contain stories about mighty stags that were hunted by many men without success. Invariably they disappeared without trace – only to be seen again during the roar (rut) by the light of the full moon.
One can imagine these apparitions and the stir such a sighting would have caused among local hunters. No doubt the stories were told and retold around many a fire, especially in the old days when deer were more common (in New Zealand, anyway). In those days hunting was a regular pastime and passion – even for deer cullers who often complained of long weeks of loneliness in the bush, with bad weather thrown in to boot.
It is hard not to experience a shiver of excitement at the thought of a mighty stag who eluded all the hunters and who still stalks the night skies when the hinds are on heat and the moon is full.
Acrylic on Arches Dessein art paper, 160gsm 11.25″x 13.25″
For more details, click on the image.
Before long, once the challenge is given, a bellow of reply comes echoing back through the forest, and the Challenger knows for sure that a rival stag is after his harem.
Both red deer stags are on full alert now, and the ball is back in the Challenger’s court again.
As mentioned previously, it is likely the stags may not be able to see each other through the forest in these early stages, so they are sizing each other up on vocals as one call follows the next.
Slowly the stranger stag moves closer. Once within sight of each other, they move in and engage quickly, lowering their antlers and locking them like wrestlers. Then comes the test of strength, body weight and agility as they push back and forth, and circle, each trying to flip the other.
Getting flipped puts a stag at the mercy of his opponent, so frequently the stag who feels himself outmatched will break away and make a run for it, with his adversary in hot pursuit.
For more details about the artwork, click on the images.
Following on from my All Muscle: Promoting The Great Outdoors post, the next thing one can expect if it’s mating season, or the rut (the roar as we call it in NZ), is the Challenge – in the Red Deer, a series of deep, guttural grunts, bellows, groans and huffs.
On the other hand, the first time I heard a bull elk – Cervus canadensis (or Wapiti in NZ) bugling, I was quite surprised at the high tone of the vocals, given the elk is a larger animal than the red deer.
It’s an eerie sound though, whichever species it comes from, and in the natural it carries a fair bit of emotion and suspense as the two stags size each other up and maneuver through the bush to get an advantage. Quite often the stags can’t actually see each other during the initial stages of the encounter, so they are sizing each other up – trying through the vocals to get an indication of the age, size and seriousness of intention of the potential adversary, should the episode end up in a fight.
Well, here is the Red Stag (Cervus elaphus) issuing his challenge:
For more details about this work, click on the images.