France's new national champion in imitating the bellow of the stag spoke to The Connexion today and gave an exclusive demonstration of his art.
We are pleased to pass on the following link from our conversation with champion stag bellower Alfred Bour, from Réding in Moselle: Alfred Bour imitates a stag. We think it is impressive even though it was done over the phone, without sophisticated recording equipment – and Mr Bour had a cold!
This comes as Mr Bour, 46, who has been imitating stags for 20 years, won the national contest which was held at the Parc Animalier de Sainte-Croix in Rhodes, Lorraine earlier this week. He is now set to go up against champions of around a dozen other countries in European championships in Hungary next year along with two runners-up (they will be held in France in 2017).
This is also the start of the season if you want to listen to the real thing resounding in the forests of France as the red deer enter their mating season. Known as le brame du cerf, it can be heard from around now for a month and various outings with experts are organised.
Mr Bour, a farmer and council worker, said bellowers are allowed to amplify their voices by making the sound into an object but cannot use artificial aids in making the sound itself. “I tried everything – shells, horns... finally for me, it’s a bakelite tube that works best for me,” he said.
He added: “It’s all done in the way you vibrate your vocal chords and manage your breath, a bit like an operatic tenor. In the official competition there are six kinds of raire, which is the term for a specific cry, whereas brame du cerf is the general word for the behaviour.
“You’ve got different ones for a young stag, an old stag, a stag with does etc. I can do them all, though some people find the young one harder because it’s higher and more melodious and goes from high to low up and down the scales.
“I learned from a friend of my father who was a hunting guide – we went into the forest and he taught us what to do.”
Mr Bour said while imitation is a challenge in itself, it can has practical applications for attracting stags, for example to photograph them.
Many events around the country are being organised by the Office National des Forêts, to hear the brame, which is best experienced at daybreak or sunset.
This year, these include events in the Forêt de Château de Chambord, Loir-et-Cher, and in the Forêt de Compiegne, Oise. Le Parc Animalier de Sainte-Croix is the best place to catch it in the north-east.
If you do get a chance to go to an event this year, see if you can recognise any of these distinct noises, such the bellows of…
• Presence – a short, hoarse and deep sound
• Lethargy – longer, isolated and melancholic
• Challenge – provoked with a raised tone
• Pursuit – jolting sound emitted when deer runs behind a doe
• Triumph – a powerful sound when they win a combat.
Events for the deer bellowing season at Le Parc Animalier de Sainte-Croix will run through from September 19 until October 11 (see: Brame du cerf activities).
Photo: Alfred Bour (right) with runners-up Pierre Schmidt (left) and Wolfgang Rieck