Digiscoping - Sitting in the shelter of a large larch, a deep sense of peace invades us. We are listening to the voice of the deer. In the woods there is an almost unreal silence, which was broken, for a moment, only by our presence. The forest immediately resumes its life. We hear the first bellowing. The mind is free from all other thoughts. Not far away, a subtle noise takes shape: we know what this noise means: at the edge of the wood, a roe deer comes out on pasture. The wide nostrils open to every breath of wind, the mobile ears wide open that interrogate the space, two antelope eyes full of mystery and profound sweetness. He is not alarmed, because nothing around him sounds dangerous and our smell cannot reach his sense of smell: it is his innate prudence, which needs reassuring signs to start grazing the tasty grass. Immersed in thoughts and listening to the roars, we hardly notice the glimpse of time: the eye does not go to the clock, but to the sun that begins to lick the opposite side, coloring the peaks with pink. An hour of shadow still awaits us, in these deer arenas, but we will wait without problems for the moment when the sun begins to filter through larch and fir trees, in fleeting play of light. A wait, however, full of suggestions and magic. We are here for this. We want to "talk" with the deer. There are two appointments, for a hunter, which absolutely cannot be late: the wedding and the roar of the deer. Unfortunately, our local hunting calendars do not always coincide with the loud moment of the bellow (as happens in other parts of Europe), but this does not affect the desire to talk to deer. The bellow is like a game of chance: you can never predict the exact day it will begin; too many are the variables involved. But that's okay: if, by law, the rifle has to be silent - for now -, we will respect the appointment anyway. The long and the camera will replace the rifle, up to the opening.
Far away, higher up, a dark, husky sound - absolutely unmistakable - resounds in the woods. It is time to move towards Him. A little cold, we place the backpack on our shoulders and begin to shorten as much as possible the distance, now long and winding, between us and that "noise". At the beginning, we walk briskly, climbing along the ridge, and we stop only to locate, more and more precisely, the source of the sound that repeats itself at fairly regular intervals. When this becomes stronger and more precise, we try to lighten the pace: any (wrong) noise can frustrate the approach. Regarding the noises, we know well that we must identify with the situation: there are sounds that are "granted", indeed welcome, that do not make the deer flee and there are others that put it on the run even if this is the time of the year in which it is less suspicious. The noise of the stick struck on the ground or among the branches - for example - attracts the dominant male, who thinks he is in the presence of a rival to chase away; the same thing applies to a "roar" reproduced by our voice with a call or an ox horn. Quite differently, however, are the things if our stick has a metal tip that beats on the stones, or if human voices or any metallic sound resound in the wood. Turning off the mobile is a must. The distance - now - has narrowed. Our stops are getting longer, waiting for a "response" and confirmation from the other side. The traces of large hooves are evident, fresh, on the ground. Like other times, we repeat a game that makes us identify with the situation: we put the boots exactly in the footprints left by the deer. Following the same paths and the same passages that preceded us. In the most complicated passages, we are amazed - every time - how large and bulky antlers can pierce such an intricate bush. It is extraordinary to see how, in the same footprint there are many legs. Numerous animals, one track. Paws in the same footsteps of the animal that precedes. Finally, only a small rise separates us from the roar of the deer. It is the most delicate moment. Up to now, we have not done anything wrong, but now that, even though we do not yet see the deer, we hear - loud and clear - its hoarse roar, every mistake is paid for. Motionless on our steps, we study the surrounding land. It is necessary to find the most comfortable, most sheltered and above all more silent way to "unglue" without being seen, without being heard. We try to advance - in slow motion - in the moments of the bellow, which can create a certain cover, even if we know that the greatest risk is the females of the harem, whose sense of prudence is more developed in the period of the bellow. Our heart is beating wildly, and we are afraid the deer will hear it.
Approaching the deer from below, however, we have an advantage: the crowns of the stage, which are well above the animal's eyes, materialize in the wood long before He sees us; by keeping the ground between us and its eyes, we can locate the exact spot where the deer is. Once this short, but interminable distance is thus bridged, we are able to count the points in the crown. The rhythmic movement of the stage during each bellow represents for us the first, exciting impact with the majestic ungulate. It is the culmination of an exciting approach, which projects us almost out of the world, into the silence and deep peace of the forest. In a slow, studied, majestic way, the deer turns its head slightly, interrogating the space around it. His every cure is not defensive, in these moments: no male must approach the harem. At regular intervals, carrying the crown almost to the back, mouth open and stretched forward, neck strained with effort, the deer utters its cry of love and dominance. Deep, strong, dark, husky, unmistakable. The deer craves its need for large spaces, its dominion over females and its imperative possession of the territory. To crave - for the deer - is to attract, drive away and provoke at the same time; before, during and after the conquest, in the evening, at night, in the morning and sometimes in the central part of the day, at the moment of one's best years. Having seen the horns, but not yet the animal, we must stop, motionless as statues; the game is done and the show that Nature offers us in these moments is truly extraordinary. All this, at times, can even last a very long time: defense and prudence are less important weapons for the roaring deer. His absolute priority is not that of food now, but that of keeping the females well gathered, not to disperse them and to peremptorily and violently drive away the young or anyone who intends to contend with him for this dominion. Nothing else matters - to the owner of the harem - during the bellow.
Hours, days, weeks go by for this "job". The boss, during short transfers, always walks in the queue, closes the queue regularly, “counts” and checks the number of females several times. If any female lingers too long, or gets "distracted", she is immediately called to order, "fished out" with strong reproaches. Every now and then, the calm of the forest is broken by the thunderous "fly" towards some male not yet married, who tries to take advantage of every slip of the females. It is almost never a question of violent clashes, never mortars, but only of precise imposition rituals; very often, in fact, these clashes are resolved even before starting: the dominant male imposes his strength even only with the bellow or with his own weight and development of the stage; faced with this demonstration of strength, the weaker and / or younger males prefer to leave (momentarily) the arena, waiting to return there in more favorable moments. In one of these brief and violent bursts of impetus, a breath of air brings us, clear, what, in our solitary thoughts, we have baptized "smell of deer". Acre, strong and that we cannot compare to any other olfactory emanation: the smell of deer, and that's it. Evening comes. After these emotions, which we have stopped in the head and / or in a photo file, we go down. The trees rise towards us, like an outstretched hand. From the wood, emerge the bell tower of the village, the fields, the houses, the smell of smoke and that light that lights up in the distance, as if it were calling us. It does not matter if we have the deer with us or its image captured forever in the camera's memory card. The emotions have been the same, always. We "talked" with him, and this is enough for us. We should not be surprised if, on returning home, we fall into silence. The excitement of the encounters made, the still hot and alive emotions are still within us. The majesty of deer is an image that stays in our mind for a long time. Lost in the silences and sounds of Nature, we have penetrated and immersed ourselves deeply in the sources at the sources of the human condition. We return from afar. Give us time to arrive.
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