It is my experience, late April heralds the time of year when Red Deer cast their magnificent antlers; they cast not only their antlers but a magic spell – that holds me in thrall until I find one – it is a Quest.
There is no way of knowing exactly where or when an antler will fall because they fall at will – but it is the expectation and excitement of finding one that’s addictive; I say expectation because you have to believe that you will find one.
Every evening this week – I have disappeared for a couple of hours or more into the forest I call ‘Shedland’ – in the hope that I’ll find a cast antler. There is nothing more exciting in my eyes – than that first moment of recognition when suddenly I realise what I’ve been searching for – a huge, branched beast of an antler! Tuesday – 18th April 2017 was my lucky day – and it came right at the end of a two hour shed hunting session when day had almost descended into night. Suddenly five beautiful, glowing white tips lying on a muddy bank in the darkness stopped me in my tracks – their tracks. I waited until my eyes fully opened and acclimatised to what lay in front of me – it ‘s a magical moment that I often play over and over again in my mind – it is so powerful. Before picking it up – I took a photograph of it in situ…
I say ‘always’ – I have only ever found three – two whoppers in 2016 and this beauty. It’s what makes all three so prized. The odds are I won’t find a shed antler because they are more likely to be cast over a huge area of thicket that’s impenetrable to mere humans – thank God ‘my’ four boys have sanctuary away from people with guns. These are truly wild stags.
A freshly cast antler provides a great calcium source for many nocturnal animals too – foxes, badgers, mice – and the deer themselves enjoy a wholesome gnaw and nibble – so I’m deeply grateful when Nature leaves one for me. I know the date that this antler was cast because I covered exactly the same ground the night before.
When finally I emerged out of the forest – I carried my prize all the way round another three miles on the road – it was a perfect excuse not to get home too early and put it down – even though it’s got a good weight to it! I stopped off in the church yard – to show it to my Dad…
I placed the antler on his plot and sat awhile next to him. I listened to the owls – and thanked the stars above. They were shining over the church more brilliantly than I can ever remember…
I didn’t really want to come back in – I was so happy!
My three cast antlers have all been given names – my first is ‘Yod’ – my second is ‘Son of Yod’ – and this year’s find – is ‘Yaffle’!
‘Yaffle’ because it’s got a ‘Y’ at one end – a huge ‘E’ at the other – and in between there is a small white mark on its trunk-like structure where the wild animals got to it before me – it looks like a Woodpecker’s hole! ‘Yaffle’ is a country name for a Green Woodpecker. It all makes perfect sense to me!