Saturday, 5 March 2011

Whilst in the Bristol area my perigrinations found me.....

 trespassing through some woods that I had roamed as a teenager, actually the woods where I partially dreamt up my quasi pagan religion. In those days the idea was to entice attractive young ladies to divest themselves of their clothing so they could frolic naturally amongst the trees and hopefully with me. Unfortunately I never seemed to have any takers so had to revert to more conventional methods. Now instead of imagined nubile women I spotted some real roe deer out in the fields that bordered the woods. Their cocked ears and rigid stance indicated they were already aware of an unknown presence amongst the trees.  I stopped; they couldn’t have seen me as I was well screened by trees and undergrowth, dressed in sombre greens, upwind so they couldn’t have caught my scent. They had heard me at something like three hundred meters, even though I was deliberately moving cautiously across the dried leaf litter and twigs that make the woodland floor as I was bird watching. I watched and waited, some of my ancient ancestors must have hunted deer. How good do you have to be? I waited; they eventually went back to grazing. I scanned the wood and tried to pick out a route that I could take to move closer to them. I moved as quietly as I could, but just as I moved one head instantly came up, eyes staring directly my way. Just how good is their hearing? How close would I need to move to get in a shot? Possibly with an arrow a hundred meters? But how close with a spear? I shuffled forward, all the heads came up, they had my position pinpointed but I was now screened by a thick stand of holly. I quickly moved forward, they remained rigid, staring.  I moved sideways through a stand of beech and oak. I squatted with my back to a large oak. They couldn’t see me, so I waited. I listened to the woodland, bird calls mingled with the sibilant whisperings of the wind in the bare trees. Some minutes later they are grazing again. I thought back to my childhood, stories of Red Indians and their hunting skills, how they could move through woodland silently. I always admired the skill, trying on many occasions to mimic them but always failing, as one step on a twig brings a sharp report. So how could I move forward? I crawled to my right to the cover of a large tree and then forward to its base. I peer round its bowl, they are all alert. I wait for their heads to drop, then skittered sideways to the cover of another tree, avoiding any twigs. I peer round again but they have now drifted further down the field, they are suspicious. I pause again, patience. I must be within a hundred and fifty meters, I move once again and they are gone, bouncing away in a wide arc and back into the safety of the woods. How could they have heard that? I know I’m an amateur, though not a complete novice, but don’t think I got remotely near enough to them. I’m filled wonder at their senses, honed for survival and filled with admiration for my unknown ancestors.

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