Red Dawn

One steely eye opens to the sight of Venus making her sentinel voyage across a 6am sky, tawny owl announces the dawn of an epiphany.
Cover thrown back, cloaked in camo coat, binoculars slung over shoulders and a hit to the hip confirms a hunting knife.

A touch to the temple of a mighty fallen fallow buck skull, a muttered prayer in honour and request to Cernunnos the wild forest God and the animal spirits to bring us luck and grant permission to take a life.
Into the outside. Snow thinly spread across the field that I call home, it's very much still dark and the moon illuminates the scintillating snowfall path I take to catch my ride.
We head in the direction of a plantation forest and a smallholding that guards it's outskirts, giggling with bleary anticipation, a plan is hatched:
Find a deer, kill a deer.

The car door is closed with gritted teeth as I have a habit of accidentally slamming it, the rifle is loaded, sticks in hand.
We are away. Single file on a dim track leading to a slumbering hamlet, into the champaign.

Trying desperately to drop in, breathe deep and still the white noise that so often wraps itself around my brain.
It's another world out here, somehow a portal into the dark ages, a primal quest and participation in an age old ritual.
The light filters in as we skirt the hedgerow, held in the arms of the high moor, glassing the fields with raised binoculars, stop-starting to check around the edges.
The wind direction is sensed almost constantly, as this is the deer's greatest defence. Reds are known to be able to smell a threat over a mile off.

Eyes graze the ground for tracks (also known as 'slots') and we pick up those of some form of even toed ungulates... they are here, they are here! Are they here?
Gnarled tree root is scrambled over, and we are drawn into a dormant sheep grazing block by a gut wrenching intuition, scanning... scanning.
Still following in tow I am given the signal that there are two in the field with upheld fingers, my movements slow as my heart begins to race and the scene is investigated.
There are indeed two, like none that I have seen on our previous excursions. Faces kindred to a camel's, stature grander than that of a Roe or Fallow.

'What are they?'
'I think they're reds'

Sticks set into the ground, rifle slung over, glove pulled by teeth into mouth and spat onto the frozen ground, finger poised.

Voyeurs with magnified eyes, beholding them feed, waiting in ambuscade. They look to be two hinds (the correct term for female red deer) grazing side by side.
Suddenly they spook and tantivy away to our right out of sight. Curses are hissed and hearts drop out of our throats.
'The first reds I've seen and I mess it up'.
But now more move into the field, we count around a dozen venery.

Then an omnipotent bellow erupts from behind us; yet more at our backs, in attempt of idle threat and warning call to those below.

Tactically targeting the smallest in the rangale (collective for deer), side on it faces, heart exposed as ours beat like war drums, he takes a deep breath and pulls the trigger.

The sound rips through the three of us in a trigon. I watch it drop and sorrow floods into me and pours from my eyes. Death lets me know I am still human.

An injection of emotions follows suit. Ecstasy, remorse, awe, relief, grief.
We embrace with the shakes and turn to check the stakes.
A flock of grim reaper-like sheep inspect the fallen beast, it doesn't seem edible to them and they collectively decide grass is far more fascinating.

Step by petrified step we tentatively creep towards the beautiful creature, gently touch the unseeing eye with a stick to check for a blink reaction. It gazes blindly on, lids veiled in vale.
We drop down in the snow and stroke the fell to sleep. Deep in gratitude, holding its hoof.
In this moment it feels like we are witnessing the soul transcending the body and we pause everything to say goodbye.

The gralloch then commences. Stomach opened, weasand tied, organs removed and checked over for cysts, signs of tuberculosis, and lung worm.
All is healthy, but the lungs have been shot through. Numbles gathered (numble is an old word for deer entrails to be eaten in a pie, hence 'numble or humble pie') and I sit with the carcass as the rest of the gralloch is laid in offering to the foxes.

I feel lonely sitting there, but stroke its head and take the time to say my own goodbyes.

We then bleed it out and turn to seek help of the landowner to move the mighty creature when the sky catches our breath. Crimson electric horizon outlines majestic clouds and the rabbit in the full moon runs off into the ether.
Wassail to a glorious morning.

I long to be involved in the skinning and butchering, but Running Deer beckons and I am excited to relay the story to one of the students that has a keen interest in game keeping.
Knowing that all of the animal will be used- meat for food, hide for tanning and leather, the skull for decoration and soul for storytelling brings me comfort and joy in retaliation to the cruel face of large scale farming.

As I was not involved in the entirety of the ceremony, my grief is yet settle and my heart weighs heavy, but as many wise men have told me:

'the day your soul ceases to mourn and experience remorse for the life you have taken, sell your weapon and take up photography'.

I take the time to sit in solitude with my face to the sun and bask in revelry of the endless life that surrounds me.
Finding words to suitably express my gratitude for this wondrous world still evades me, but I truly believe that this communication between human and other than is what keeps me alive and wondering.

Nika Moss
Thanks Ed! I really appreciate your feedback.
I was supposed to write this for a work blog, but apparently it was 'too risky'.



Well-Known Member
I learnt several words there, which is quite unusual for me as I like to think I’ve got a decent grasp of the English language (for a Cornishman)


Well-Known Member
Just lit a handrolled patchouli incense stick from Bengaluru, India, and reread your post.

Ps: I wouldn't worry about an intro now as surely the above is suitable & sufficient for any SD Moderator?
It was “champaign” and “weasand” that were new to me..... I wonder, is “Champaign” pronounced like campaign? Or like Champagne?
I really like ‘tantivy’ and ‘venery’ too.
As for Champaign, I reckon it’s the latter.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk


Well-Known Member
I guess you could have Champagne on the Champaign! :lol:

We are lucky to have some great words in the world of hunting.