I am coming to meet you,
O you wild denizens of the forest.
But first I must find you.
Your signs I know so well and now
the hunt is on, to track you and
I want you to accept me so I can
become one with you,
one of the wild herd moving
peacefully, gracefully through the forests.
My ancestors would have at one time
hunted for your meat.
Now I hunt to meet eye to eye
and close in on that wild vitality
in the depths of the wood.
Not apparent to the casual observer,
subtle clues show that you have been near.
I set off along a track line, moving stealthily,
smelling the air, sensing the movement
or stillness of the air in the understory.
My eye surveys the seeming chaos of
broken branches and leaf litter.
Here and there tell-tale signs appear,
bare earth around an Oak trunk, something
attracted you here, a special
spot to rest and browse and then
move on apace.
Then ahead, a flash of a glimpse of
I crouch in the brush for cover
and espy the trailing hinds of the herd,
the hunt is truly on.
I will track you, keep up with you,
you will know I’m here,
I enter a deeply dark, closed in,
choking forest, unnatural plantation.
But I’ve no time to be appalled, I’ve lost
sight of them so I step up the pace,
jump logs, traverse gullies, breathing
deeply, sweat pouring, eyes peeled.
An unmistakable scent fills the air,
the smell of sweat and animals.
They are close.
The forest opens up, still dark
but Ash, Oak and Beech are the mainstay.
And no longer a soft, silent cushion
of needles, but the more challenging
dry cracking underfoot of small twigs.
I tread carefully, watching my step
then looking up as I should,
I instantly flinch to one side and
before I have even thought, my back
is to the Oak.
And burned as an after-image on the
back of my retina is the outline
of a full grown stag among the herd.
Ten to twenty I surveyed in that glance,
in my mind thoughts racing:
“Will they still be there? Can I
close in on them without being seen?
Have I been seen already?”
Edging carefully round the tree,
with one eye I peer past the bark,
and in my heart, elation, as I can
feast my eyes on the gentle drooping heads
of hinds grazing, watchfully moving
while the regal, many-pointed stag
surveys the forest scene.
Seconds seem like hours, how long
have I stood stock still here behind this tree?
When can I make my move?
Slowly, I take out my camera and raise it
to eye level, but even this is a mistake.
The stag’s head snaps round and
stares straight at me, as if looking into
Letting out a bark of alarm, the herd
breaks and in an instant dissolves
into the wood.
I breathe again.
The end of the chase,
until the next time,