Solo deep forest sleep – out during the rut

Yesterday evening, while suffering from flu, I got the urge to try sleeping out in the forest during the Red deer stags’ rutting period. I hadn’t done it during this period before because I’ve had problems in the woods with hormonal enraged stags during this time in the past. But the noise of multiples of the giant beasts braying and roaring throughout the forest just seemed really appealing to experience first hand, alone, and in their space.

By the time I’d decided to go, there wasn’t much daylight left and my kit list was a hurried affair. I took a green garden tarp and some bungees to make a low slung swag shelter – 3 sided,  with roof, back and floor, and front exposed to the fire. I brought an army bivi bag to sleep in, a kettle and some water for coffee.

The walk up the hillside and then through the forest to my intended campsite above a join in  two ravines took longer than expected as I was ill. I arrived drenched in sweat and had just enough daylight to put up the shelter. Then it came to firelighting time. I’d forgotten to bring paper or cotton wool so resorted to birch bark outer. That went up no problem but the kindling around was drenched and as the forest got darker and darker I couldn’t venture off looking for drier stuff, or grass, etc. During this time the forest came alive, with large beasts crashing around and the occasional stag braying. I was so focused on peeling birch a short ways from my camp with help from my head torch,  that a large growl nearby awoke me rudely. It took over an hour to get the fire lit using a cigarette lighter and I experienced dread throughout that time at the prospect of not having a fire through the night.

The importance of a fire can’t be underestimated. For cooking, for companionship,  for safety. I collected enough dead fall to keep it going until dawn and my mood improved massively. I could begin to enjoy the various screams, grunts, barks and calls, and the sound of branches snapping under hoof out in the darkness.

I slept until 3 am and then the forest just seemed to erupt. As it didn’t start getting light until 5.30, that was a very long 2 hours and I made sure the flames of the fire were visible to any curious 4 legged passerby.

I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and it reminded me of the old saying that the best part of having an adventure is coming safely home… Thankfully, Veles had his dominions on short rein last night.

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